Justin asks: My question is about Roy’s nail cabinet (PWM, February 2014). I have built the cabinet, turned it into a crate and have the door ready to assemble. I still need to build 21 drawers. I am so glad that you did this article it is the thing I have been wanting to add to my shop. My question is about the bottom of the cabinet as it hang […]
Today I wanted to see inside a pine cone. One of dozens lying on the ground beneath a large tree. I have gathered these in the past to make hedgehogs from for my grandchildren. These cones, when still on the tree, can be hard to detach from the branch and hard to cut with a regular saw. In this case I sawed through the off centre line and exposed the inner seed encasement. The figuring was stunning and also the colours radiant. The surface was rough from the saw kerf, but the surface was hard enough to plane with a #4 smoothing plane. When I planed it the colour and texture, configuration and insight became vivid. Just looking at these inner fibres punctuated my workday with the reality that this clustered beauty was beyond words and only silent observation could really absorb a superficial yet respectful acknowledgement of its life. The seeds are pocketed in spirals of hard protective woody nodules designed to keep the seeds out of the mud and wet until full growth in the seed is completed. Just as the tree in its stem sustains the growth of leaves and seeds, so to too the cone supplies ongoing nutrition as it dies and dries to release the hundred or so seeds within. The split seed is creamy and grey whereas the wings and pod are brown on the outside.
Phil and I spent the day in the shop working on the Shaker bookcase and arrived at the point of gluing up. We were too near the closing time to feel confident to complete the gluing and so we will glue up in the morning. The pine I chose has been just lovely to work and I hope that you get the same as I had. The roundovers went just fine and so too the mortise and tenons, arching and other shaping. Soon we will be starting the back framing which I think if you are enjoying the woodworkingmasterclasses you will all enjoy this next series too.
I so enjoy hearing from the guys going out on a limb to start their businesses. Young and not so young, I feel very inspired. Rhodri Owen came by today with some questions and stopped fora cuppa. He brought out his sketchbook to ask a few project questions on his upcoming projects. He is getting a little more work now and so that’s good. I encouraged him to get a website together as soon as he can. I should say this now that I think your website is critically important as an open door for people to see what you have and what you are doing and of course it’s your personal high street shop window and selling your work often starts with people just window shopping.
Please take a look at Joe Sleight’s website and encourage him with his opening steps. He came out to us last years for a month’s intensive and went back and got stuck in making his product line and diversifying to establish himself. It’s not easy getting going and sometimes you need to do bill-paying work until the sales start coming in. But , you know, if it was a breeze would you really want it. Being a furniture maker is a way of life that has no promises, no guarantees and often there are no backers. One thing I can promise is that it is a way of life worth pursuing. There are several people over there in the US striving too. Take a look at Eric Curtis and encourage this young furniture maker too. Caleb Pendleton down in the great state of Texas too has the beginnings of a website. Yes it’s an uphill struggle but in time Eric, Joe, Rhodri, Caleb and many a dozen others are going to be the future of woodworking and career furniture makers. They are determined to make it and are investing their lives as I have these past five decades. I recall a man named Ron Goodnow in Dallas, Texas who left his former career as a police officer in Fort Worth and became a furniture maker in his own right. Ten years down the road he is still doing it I see and going strong. What about Mark Day from Texas and Rick Dickemper who came out for a few weeks to be with me too. They all went and became woodworkers or added to their existing woodworking skills. There is life beyond the technical jungle for some. For anyone that wants the challenge.
More of this and on this later I hope.
Here is the final finish on the Dutchman repair I showed in my last post. I used pigmented wax to fill in the joint, then worked it over to match the surrounding optical surfaces.
My last post in Norwegian was about bench hooks (planing stops) on older Norwegian workbenches. I have done a study of what they have been called, both in written sources, and what was common language among Norwegian woodworkers about 80 years ago. My main source for this is a survey from about 1934 when 168 woodworkers where questioned about their craft, with a special focus on the workbench (høvelbenk). I found that the terminology from the litterature (benkehake, translates to bench hook) was not so much in use among the craftsmen. Some of the names (høvelbit, tang, klo, kam and bitehest) could indicate that the function or shape of the “bench hook” could be of the type seen on (older) benches without endwise but with a fixed bench hook that “bites” into the stock you are planing. Similar as the planing stop to Christopher Schwarz inspired by Roubo, or the bench hook to Peter Follansbee inspired by Moxon. Some of the answers from the survey did also have drawings to explain the shape of the “bench hook” in question.
There is also another post about the traces of the bench hook from Vasa, the text is in Norwegian. In other posts I write about how the bench was found in the wreck of Vasa that sank in 1628 and was rescued 333 years later. There are a lot of wear on the wood surfaces after all those years on the seabed. All parts of iron on the bench have eroded or rusted away. In the other post about the Vasa bench hook, I have tried to interpret the shape and size of the bench hook that the hole was made for. The hole for the shank seems to be parallel and does not taper. Most of the old bench hooks I have found in Norway and Sweden have a shank that tapers. I think the parallel shank could work a similar way as the bench hooks from Roubo and Moxon where the iron hook is mounted on a block of wood which is mounted in a through-mortise in the benchtop.
I have searched for old bench hooks that could fit in the hole in the Vasa bench. I have not found any in Sweden and Norway yet. I found some references to an interesting bench hook in a blog entry on the blog of Peter Follansbee. He write about a bench hook with 8″ long shank from an archaeological excavation in Virginia. On my question by e-mail he was helpful and sent me a scan from the book he got the information from. It is the Article “The Archaeological Evidence of Tools Used in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Virginia”, by David Harvey, from the book “Eighteenth-Century Woodworking Tools”, James M. Gaynor, 1997. The bench hook was from the excavations at Flowerdew Hundred in Virginia and is probably from 1690-1730.
It is relevant to ask what an, at least 70 years younger, bench hook from Virginia have to do with the Vasa workbench? The only connection is probably that the shape and measures could make a match? With this information, and a glance to other old bench hooks, the blacksmith, Mattias Helje in Lima in Sweden set out to forge a bench hook for the copy of the Vasa bench that Tomas and I are building in Mariestad.
Arkivert under:1600-tal, Benkehake, English, Tilbehør høvelbenk
Eine Zapfensäge von A. Mathieson & Sons, Glasgow, die ich in meiner Werkstatt habe.
The handle maker must have skewed the saw, when he sawed the contures.
Der Griffmacher muss die Säge schräg gestellt haben, als er die Kontur aussägte
I once worked with a guy who maintained that white oak wasn’t suited for furniture and that whiskey barrels are a far better use for this wood. Looking at the pile of wood in the photo you might be inclined to agree with that, and there are days when I find myself leaning in that direction. I’m working on a project for an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, a […]
I am especially pleased to announce a week-long hands-on tutorial from renowned plane maker Tod Herrli this coming August. I was first introduced to Tod when I bought his plane-making video almost fifteen years ago. It is perhaps the best instructional video I have ever watched on any subject.
The seven days will be split into two interconnected workshops, the first three days (August 11-13) being “Making a Matched Pair of Hollow-and-Round Planes,” with the subsequent four-day session (August 14-17) on “Advanced Side Escapement Plane Making.”
If this interests you, drop me a line.
Christopher Schwarz built this lovely and delicate Creole Table for our February 2007 issue (an issue that also includes a nice Greene & Greene side table, Michael Dunbar’s discussion of traditional handscrews, an easy and accurate way to sharpen scrapers and more). You can read it free here, but I recommend downloading the PDF at the end for the cutlist and illustrations (and the images align better in the text […]
The lumber yard had a good selection of 8/4, 6/4, and 4/4 stock but nothing thicker than that, so the legs will be laminated and the base of the desk will be made from 6/4 material. Then I turned my attention to the top and things took an unexpected turn. On the pile was a board with a live edge that was unlike every other straight grained piece in the pile. There was sapwood, the grain went every which way, the planer had torn the faces up badly, but you could still see what it could look like. It shimmered, the grain undulated forward and back; it was unique and distinctive. Unfortunately, only 8' was usable, so that would mean the desk would have to be the minimum width I believe to be acceptable--4'. I decided to give it a try.
Once I had the two pieces for the top roughed out, I needed to joint the edges for the glue-up. I went about it as I always do and got a big surprise: it didn't work. My plane skittered along the edge, sounding like a railroad train going clickety-clack as it tore out grain. The seam had noticeable gaps that moved around each time I tried. I posted a request for advice on Woodnet and got back a number of suggestions. Even though I thought my plane was sharp, I resharpened carefully. I moved the chipbreaker as close to the edge of the blade as I could get it with the naked eye. Finally, I dampened the boards with alcohol. It was a totally different experience and after a few passes I had a tight joint.
I had decidedly mixed feelings about trying to plane the top. The planer at the yard had torn the board badly because of the many grain reversals. I wanted to end up with a 7/8" top, so I only had 1/16" of material I could remove. The success I had jointing the pieces encouraged me, but removing that much tearout and keeping the top flat seemed daunting. I confess: I succumbed to temptation. My guild has a 4' wide belt sander in its shop and a professional member offered to help me use it.
I am somewhat in awe of this behemoth with its massive sanding belts and I just couldn't help laughing as I stood there with my completed top almost before I realized what had happened. Do I feel guilty? Yes, but the wild grain was just too much for the current state of my hand tool skills. Now that I have confessed I can move on to cutting 16 mortises by hand to assuage my guilt. I won't be using the horizontal mortiser the Guild has. :)
The Roorkee family tree spreads across most of Europe.
Marcel Breuer’s “Wassily” chair (1925), Le Corbusier’s “Basculant” chair (1928), Wilhelm Bofinger’s “Farmer Chair” (1966) and Vico Magistretti’s “Armchair 905” (1964) all owe a tremendous debt to the Roorkee chair.
Two of the closest relatives are the Kaare Klint “Safari Chair” and Arne Norell’s version, now sold as the Sirocco chair by the Swedish furniture company, Norell Möbel AB.
There’s a particularly well-broken-in example in this recent Craigslist ad passed to me by Dave Jeske. The Sirocco is an interesting chair because all its components are turned, and Norell eliminated the pivoting back braces – giving the job of holding the back leather piece to the back legs. The cant of the backrest is handed by fastening the back leather to two of the turned side stretchers.
Speaking of stretchers, Norell added three of them to this chair compared to the classic Roorkee. Yet, the chair still retains the same basic profile.
In the coming months, I’ll be exploring more links between 19th-century campaign furniture and 20th-century modern design. There are, in my opinion, some strong ties.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Interesting collaboration between Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and the Takenaka Corporation, which also runs the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum:
The tools will begin their residence at Harvard in an exhibition co-curated by [Associate Professor Mark] Mulligan and Professor Yukio Lippit from the History of Art and Architecture (HAA) department. It opens on January 17 in the basement-level gallery of the Center for Government and International Studies South Building (CGIS-South). At the moment, a team of master carpenters is assembling a replica of a famous 18th century Kyoto teahouse in CGIS for the exhibit, assisted by local Japanese-trained craftsman Harrelson Stanley.
It’s also nice to see Harrelson Stanley’s name again.
(Thanks to Masaru Kamijo for the link.)
Monday, besides bringing the beginnings of a nice little snowstorm, brought an email from a reader with some questions about a fascinating cast miter box. It is a Union No. 2, but beyond that I know nothing about it. I don’t have any old Union tool catalogs, and have not been able to find any pictures or references to this model online.
I have to admit that I cannot recall seeing one like this, so suspect that it is not very common. Does anyone have any knowledge of this model that they can share? Age, scarcity, or even a catalog reference to it would be of great interest. Please leave a comment or email me with any information.
In order to answer a few questions that a thoughtful person asked me about myself and my woodworking hobby, I give you this post:
What is your favorite project?
So far it has to be the Arts and Crafts style bookcase I made last year. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to look, which is sometimes a feat in and of itself. Everybody who has seen it gives me a compliment.
What is your least favorite project?
Probably the TV stand I built a few years ago. It’s concept was fine and I like the design, but building it was a nightmare. I didn’t care for the finish, and the hot, humid weather caused the panels to warp uncontrollably. Of every piece of furniture I’ve made, it is the one project that I wish I could rebuild.
If you could build anything, what would you make?
I’ve always wanted to make a full bedroom set: chest of drawers, a dresser, matching end table, and a bed frame. While I think I have the skill to accomplish a project like this, I don’t have the space, or the time for that matter. At my current rate, it would take years to build and finish a large scale project like this. I don’t have that kind of patience.
If you could have free pick of any one power tool, what would it be?
If I were picking a power tool, it would probably be a Sawstop cabinet saw, though a Delta Unisaw would be a very close second. I have limited experience on both tools, but it was enough to tell me that these are both great saws. The safety feature of the Sawstop saw pushes it to the top. If it were a hand tool the choice would be a little more difficult. Would a full set of moulding planes count as one tool? If so that would be it. If not, I would probably choose a plough plane, which is a tool I’ve wanted to get but never got around to actually purchasing.
If you could improve one woodworking skill, what would it be?
I think if you talk to just about any amateur woodworker, they would all say that they need to improve at sawing, or sharpening, or accuracy. While all of those are important skills, they can easily be improved upon with practice. For me, it would be learning the correct pace to work at. Like music, and sports, woodworking has a rhythm to it, and finding that rhythm, I believe, is the key to not only doing good work, but having fun while doing it. Everybody knows that working too quickly can lead to mistakes, but so can working too slowly. Getting into a rhythm, such as preparing your stock in the most efficient sequence, or having your workspace maximized for good work, or even something as simple as assembling parts in the correct order; these things lead to better woodworking. Of course, being a good sawyer and sharpener also leads to efficiency, but if your stuff is all over the place and your workshop is a mess, being able to saw a straight line has a lot less meaning.
What do you like most about woodworking?
That’s hard to answer in a straightforward way. I think that most people have a desire to create…something…and woodworking is a very creative hobby. Yet, there is a lot more to it than that. I think that taking a raw material like wood, and assembling it into furniture, and using that piece of furniture in your home; I think the pride a woodworker feels in accomplishing that feat is something that cannot be duplicated in any other way. When I get my woodworking tools together, and I’m at my bench, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to know that so much can be accomplished with what is right in front of me. Maybe it’s the feeling that an artist has when he has a blank canvas and some paints. It makes you feel like you can do anything.
What do you dislike most about woodworking?
Time. There is never enough time, and woodworking takes time. My wife and I both work long hours, we both commute, we both work on weekends sometimes. When you are married and have a family, it’s not easy to tell them that you’re going to spend the entire weekend woodworking in the garage, especially after you’ve barely seen them all week. At the same time, when a project builds up momentum, it isn’t easy to just stop cold and start again eight days later. That is the difficulty in being an amateur, and only having a few hours to spend woodworking every month. There is no answer to it, because both answers are wrong; the equation doesn’t balance no matter which way you assemble the numbers. You can’t woodwork and spend time with your family, not really, because as much as you try to involve your family, woodworking is a solitary hobby for the most part, and it’s a hobby that takes time. That time is not easily gotten or shared. I’ve tried for going on five years to figure it out and I can’t. I will never have enough time to woodwork and also spend with my family.
Why do you write a woodworking blog?
I don’t know. Part of it is maybe because a lot of what I’ve read in the woodworking sense I don’t agree with. I don’t think that professional woodworkers can ever understand the mindset of an amateur. I’ve always gotten the sense that professional woodworkers write their articles and books like they are trying to be “one of the guys”. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t always work for me. Another reason I write a blog is because woodworking can be a lonely hobby. Woodworking isn’t like playing baseball or basketball; it’s a solitary act. I could go to a park or a YMCA and get into a basketball or softball game pretty easily. Right there you are immediately with a group of people you have something in common with. Woodworking doesn’t work that way. A woodworker can’t just talk shop with his neighbor on a whim, at least not always. Like most people, I like to talk about my interests, and share them, and talk to other people that share them. With woodworking, the best way for me to do that was with a woodworking blog.
How are you perceived in the world of woodworking blogs?
I’m not too sure. According to the stats, about 80 to 100 people visit this blog each day. I think most of them generally like what I have to say. I also know there are some people that don’t care for what I write. What I do here is mostly insignificant in the woodworking sense. I understand and accept that because I am neither a professional woodworker nor a professional writer. I never expected anything out of this; I never expected to have followers, but I’m glad that I do. The nice thing about this medium is the simple fact that if you find something you don’t like, you can easily just ignore it, which I’ve done, and I’m sure that others have done with me. As far as professionals are concerned, my blog is little or nothing to them, and that’s the way it probably should be. As far as amateurs like myself, I think that some of them like what I have to say, and understand what I am getting at most of the time. That is a good feeling.
These are the answers to a few questions I was asked over the weekend…
P.S. Sorry about the formatting. I usually write my posts on word and paste them. It didn’t work this time and wordpress is not cooperating.
I’m currently working on two dulcimers I began this past Fall before the last back surgery. I am so happy to be working again! It will still be a while before I am back to working full-time in the shop, which for a self-employed person who loves his job usually means most-of-the-time, but I am […]
I got to pretty much conclude my workbench stool and so I transfer my skills to making the Shaker bookcase again. I don;t like unfinished business and that includes projects. This Shaker project pegs it for me. It has been neat to make and expresses the simplicity Shaker pieces strove to use in a simple yet highly productive life. Last year, when I visited the Hancock Shaker Museum in Massachusetts, I felt the privilege of seeing dozens of furniture pieces and other utensils that distinguished the Shakers as a people seeking to be set apart by what they did with their hands. I could see the workmanship in every plane stroke they left as a signature and I loved the thought that their investment is here as a legacy today. Please, all you woodworkers and craftspeople in general, take a day trip to the village. You will not regret spending time. It was Joseph who first told me about it and I just loved seeing everything they had to offer.
The joinery we used over the past few days of filming harkens back several centuries and of course there are thousands of joints you can use in the everyday of woodworking, but I have said it before and it’s worth repeating here, with three joints, three variations on each and about ten hand tools, you can make any Shaker piece of furniture ever made.
Phil and I worked hard today and we have much of the joinery done. Stopped housing dadoes are used throughout this Shaker bookshelf and a few additional mortise and tenons add some extra interest. We have hand planed the surfaces with the #4 Stanley smoother and the pine feels so ultra smooth it is hard to imagine having to use any sandpaper at all. We rounded over the bullnosed front edges and the top piece and ripped everything to width using a panel saw. This filming went really smoothly and apart from me jamming a screwdriver into my thumb, we managed to complete a major section revolving around layout of the shelves and mortise and tenons. Tomorrow we may get most of the filming done, which means doing in pickups we need and of course getting ready for the next series.
I took my usual walk through the National Trust grounds to reset my disposition and found lots to examine and take closeups of. Not many people at this time of the year so I generally get the whole of the grounds to myself throughout the winter.
This is me after my walk and this is the entrance to my workshop in Penrhyn Castle. Cobbled stones for walkways and walls three feet thick. I like all of that, but every time I come here I cannot wait to get my hands on the wood. It’s tough life!
The high temperatures I mentioned in A George II Ash Bureau – Part Eight paled to those in the Tack Room.
Despite leaving the doors at either end of the shed open throughout the day to encourage a throughput of ‘cooler’ air, the temperature beneath the wriggly tin roof soared to 51.8°C (125°F) and the humidity reading was a meagre “10%” (the gauge is a bit fluffy below 15%).
The bureau was hot to the touch and I noticed several glue lines had become glossy. The join through the centre of the two-board fall eventually let go. This was a freak occurrence in unprecedented conditions; I won’t be modifying my techniques nor changing glues.
I’m not overly concerned about the split. If it closes up with a rise in humidity, I’ll incorporate it into the whole ageing and distressing regime. On the other hand, if the split remains unchanged (as I suspect it will), I will likely adopt some remedial step as otherwise the writing surface will be unduly compromised.
Filed under: Case Furniture Tagged: glue lines, split
Woodworker Philip Marshall of Fairbanks, Alaska, has made a Roorkee chair with a vernacular Alaskan twist.
Marshall, whose woodworking company is called Polhavn Woodfabrik, made the Roorkee using the same joinery principles of the 1898 original, which was designed half a world away in Roorkee, India. But instead of turned legs, Marshall used naturally shaped timbers.
I’ve seen a lot of rustic designs while judging woodworking competitions in upstate New York, but this example is quite special because it breaks down and has the leather seat. This makes it look a lot more intimate than the giant Celtic thrones you see in the Adirondacks.
Well done! Check out Marshall’s site for other similarly styled pieces here.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Blue Spruce Toolworks has just introduced a new 16 oz. square-head joiner’s mallet with a resin-impregnated head, which makes the mallet nigh-indestructible. This little guy ($95) is similar to the 24 oz. version ($115) introduced at Woodworking in America, which I own, use and adore. Thanks to the heft and one leather-covered face of the big mallet, I gave away my old rubber dead-blow, which loved to leave black marks […]
In a continuation of selecting my favorite articles from the issues of 2013 (read part 1 here), below covers the August (issue #205) through December (issue #208) for the year. My hands-down winner from the August 2014 issue is the article written by Mario Rodriguez, “Take a U-turn to Scoop a Chair Seat.” Jigs are a weakness of mine, and to see a guy rig-up his table saw to plow […]