Whenever woodworkers come to my house, two things happen. We drink beer and we gaze longingly at my 18th-century copies of A.-J. Roubo’s ‘l’Art du Menuisier.”
I assure you that we keep the beer far away from the books.
I’ve owned many copies of Roubo, from the trade paperbacks all the way up to this beautiful first edition. And it is the detail and size of these original plates that grab your eye and cause you to press your face to the page.
“Why did he draw that tool in that way?” is a common question.
With many old woodworking books, the answer is, “He didn’t draw it that way. Some illustrator did.” But in this case, Roubo himself drew most all of the plates. Nothing is unintentional – I can say this because I know many of these plates by heart and have been editing our upcoming translation, which will be published next year.
With “The Book of Plates,” we wanted to capture that same experience of examining the 18th-century original by giving you the plates at the same size they were drawn in the 1700s. We wanted to offer the extreme detail from the original. Oh, and the paper is the nicest stuff available.
To give you a feel for that experience, I made this short video tour of two plates in the book – one on trying planes and one on measuring tools. The book shown in the video is my first edition – “The Book of Plates” is still on press. I apologize in advance for how many times I say “cool.” I recommend you turn that quirk of mine into a drinking game.
We are now accepting pre-publication orders for “The Book of Plates.” Order soon to ensure delivery by Christmas. The book ships starting Nov. 20.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
Antonio Marin: Yes, but only two or three per year. This is a spruce town.
From an interview with the great Granada guitar maker, Antonio Marin, American Lutherie #117
A young man visited my studio the other day to chose a guitar from my inventory, he was looking to replace the Asturias brand guitar that he is currently playing. His two complaints about the Asturias were the string length (656mm) and the neck is too thick and rounded.
I handed him a spruce/walnut guitar (photo above) with a scale length of 650mm. He loved the neck and the string length, but I noticed right away that he was struggling to get a good sound out of it.
So, I pulled out one of my latest guitars, the one based upon Antonio Torres's guitar FE 19, which is loud, has an amazing voice and capable of many nuances and again, as he played this guitar I noticed that he didn't get along with it.
"Wilson," he said, "I really want to play that Douglas fir/mahogany guitar that you brought to the Guitar Celebration at Metro State."
I got that guitar out of its case and handed it to him.
It was startling to hear him play that guitar, it was clear that a spruce topped guitar was not for him. The piece of music that he played was immediately clearer in sound and quality, no flubs with the left or right hand.
This guitar has a 640mm string length, one-half inch shorter then his Asturias, which he noticed right away and mentioned that the neck on my guitar made it easier from him to play.
For a little experiment, I let him play my old battle axe, a cedar top Hernandis guitar with a 665mm string length that was made in Japan in 1973 and imported by Sherry-Brener, the one that I played at the Christopher Parkening master class (click here for my posting on that) all those years ago. Yep, he could play that guitar well and it turned out that his Asturias guitar has a cedar top.
I told him that at this point in his studies he is a Douglas fir and cedar man.
I never would have thought that wood could influence a classical guitar player that much.
A true Spanish guitar is made of spruce and rosewood, like the woods in the photo above. I strive to make as Spanish of a guitar that I can, even though I am not Spanish, I want to capture that sound I heard in Segovia's and Sabicas' recording when I was studying the classical guitar.
Working with these young musicians is showing me that I need to make instruments that fit them, that fit them physically, sonically and dare I say it, emotionally. The guitar they play should blow their minds so much that they can't stop playing it and through that constant playing they become better musicians. That is a goal worth working for.
The young man will come back next weekend to pay for and take delivery on the Douglas fir/mahogany guitar. He mentioned to me that he wants me to make him a guitar for his senior recital, which will be in one year.
I all ready know what woods I will use for that guitar: a Douglas fir top; black walnut back and sides; walnut for the neck; black locust for the fret board and bridge; and braced with Engelmann spruce.
All woods that grow in Colorado.
Time for me to go have lunch and get into the workshop and do some work!
The folks at CU Woodshop Supply are holding their 5th Annual Fall Woodworking Festival this week, Thur. Oct. 30th-Sat. Nov. 1st 9 am – 6 pm at the CU Woodshop & School of Woodworking.
If you’re anywhere near the Champaign, Il area and haven’t visited them yet this is a great opportunity to stop by and check them out.
The event is open to everyone and this year will be featuring two masters of woodworking, Jeff Miller & George Vondriska, on-site to share their woodworking knowledge and answer your questions. At the same time the CU Woodshop is also hosting a Lie-Nielsen tool event.
So if you haven’t been tempted enough, this is an amazing opportunity to stop in and try out some of the premier hand tools available on the market and get expert guidance in choosing and using the right one for you by their knowledgeable staff that will be on hand to answer all of your questions.
And if that wasn’t enough to grab your attention and bring you in there’s also the following:
If you make it, tell the staff “Matt said HI!” They’ll probably give you a blank stare, but that’s okay, it’s better than being escorted off the premises. For sure tell Jeff I said “Hello”, but more important have a great time and share your pictures (if you choose to take any) online. I’d love to see how it went.
Skin on frame construction is the way that kayaks were originally built in the arctic waters of their origin. You make a wooden skeleton that is a framework for a waterproof skin that encloses the boat. Traditionally, the skin was made up of several seal skins that had been sewn together, and then sewn around the boat. Most modern builders of skin on frame boats opt for ballistic nylon, polyester, or canvas as opposed to seal skin.
I considered building a Greenland style boat, but eventually settled on building an F1 kayak designed by Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak. Brian is a paddler and kayak designer/builder on the Oregon coast. He teaches skin on frame boat building classes and builds kayaks and paddles to order. He is actually gearing up for an epic round the country kayak class marathon this winter/spring that is probably coming to a city near you. You can read more about the design, Brian, and skin on frame boats in general here. Check here to see the current destinations for Brian's traveling kayak workshops. Inspiring person, inspiring boats. Here is a picture of Brian paddling one of his F1s out in their natural habitat.
|Want one yet?|
At 14' long the F1 is short for a sea kayak, but it is playful, fast, and action packed. Armed with Christopher Cunningham's book for construction techniques, Harvey Golden's drawing of Brian's F1 kayak, and a clear vertical grain 14' cedar 1x10, I took the plunge.
There are a lot more pictures this time because I read that a lot of people avoid saw making, rehabilitation and sharpening. I want to show that it’s within easy reach of anyone who wants to try and doesn’t care to wait while saws take long trips to the sharpener and back. We can find many sharpening guides and tutorials online. Nearly all are very useful. For this particular saw plate, I followed Paul Seller’s recent tutorial about cutting saw teeth. The method worked wonderfully!
The plate itself is roughly 10″ by 1.5″, recycled from an old Disston that I cut down to make my frame saw a few years ago. Cutting to this shape was simple hack sawing. The tooth edge was smoothed “flat and straight” with a simple single-cut mill file. I decided to cut it to the same pattern I use for other resawing work, 5 TPI, zero rake, no fleam … just a dead simple aggressive rip pattern.
My ever handy Stanley No. 36 1/2 R rule has multiple scales in 8, 10, 12, 16 parts to the inch. The 10 scale made easy work of laying out a guide. The slideshow walks through a number of steps, with notes about each.
End result? A small piece of pine became the test victim. I set the fence to produce a kerf 3/32″ from the edge and went at it with only casual concern. What will this thing do without a lot of fussy attention? Cutting was easy once the initial grabbing was overcome. Hint: start from the far end as one does when planing a molding. You can see in one of the pictures that the kerf is not absolutely square. It’s tilted slightly. Despite that, I ended up with two boards that have less than 1/32″ of roughness left from the cut.
It will be perfect after I make an adjustment to either the face of the fence or to my right elbow.
All projects need refinement, lightness, simplicity.
I tell my Mastery students often in a critique to lose 10% of their design. Sometimes 20%. Mass is not always required for strength. Careful engineering is required. Where can you remove material?
Adding lightness and simplicity is a difficult chore. How much work do you need to do to make something simple? How do you know what is unessential in a piece? Where do you stop?
Make copies. Make models, drawings. Try one thing and then another. Keep checking in with your gut to see how it feels. Keep practicing your paring skills. You will make mistakes. Try again.
“I teach people to see using a motorbike analogy. ‘Imagine you are riding a nice powerful bike, the sun is shining and you are driving along this winding country lane your partner is on the back and you are going quite quick but safe. You approach a series of shallow S-bends you flick the bike left and right with no conscious movement of your body. Sawing down a line is like that.’ Hold that saw handle light like a child’s hand, don’t rush the stroke, don’t press down, just do it. Watch yourself uncritically, your body will adjust your stance to achieve your goal if you allow it. The moment we get tense, the second we seek to control, it goes to hell. Like raising a child.”
— David Savage
David’s e-mail newsletter is one of the things I most look forward to in the morning. As a writer, David is willing to take risks and go places I wouldn’t dare. As a woodworker, he kicks all of our butts. Sign up for his newsletter by going to his home page at http://www.finefurnituremaker.com/. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see a box where you can sign up. Highly recommended.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites, Saws
Have you ever been in your shop standing over a work piece, your eyes scrunched up and your body craned over trying to awkwardly not block light while also working on a piece? You will understand my struggles recently as I was attempting to cut some dovetails in my basement workshop. I have decent lighting in the shop but I have discovered that no matter how much light you have around it never seems to be in the right place. Enter the LED Magnetic work light that Highland has available.
First let me explain, my shop is a small room in my basement that I converted from an office space. The shop has a tendency to spill over into my garage and the rest of the basement, especially since my small shop space is dominated by my Powermatic standing Lathe (The 3520B for those keeping track at home.) What this means for my lighting issues is that, in my woodturning shop space, I have pretty solid light while in my semi-shared garage space the lighting is less than desirable.
I purchased the magnetic LED work light recently on a trip to Highland and have been experimenting with it around my shop as I work in the evenings. Having a day job really cuts into the amount of time I can devote to working in the shop and I find myself wanting to work on projects rather than hang a new light fixture or re-arrange my bench placement. The LED work light steps in and solves most of my lighting issues with the flick of a single switch.
The light itself has a magnetic base that, through the magic of science, can be turned on and off via a toggle switch on the base. This allows you to engage the magnet only when needed and keeps you from having to struggle to remove the lamp once you are done with it. Let me tell you, the magnet is strong. I have some wood storage over my bench and the magnet was able to support the lamp hanging upside down from the rack, pretty nifty.
The light also possesses a swiveling adjustable snake arm, professionals call it a gooseneck, that allows the light to be positioned in all sorts of contorted poses so that you get the light exactly where you need it. This means no more back aches from trying to contort myself around the bench and not block my overhead garage lights. It also means that when I am turning on the lathe I can swing the lamp around and get some light inside my bowls or deep vessels which allows for a better turning experience.
I’m still experimenting with the light, but it has proven to be a wonderful addition to my workshop. The LEDs are bright, the illumination strong and the ability to get the light where I need it priceless. The lamp stays cool so I can bring it in close to pieces without risking damage and everything is housed nice and tight so the ever-present and pesky dust won’t seep in. The model I picked up is currently priced at $59.99 and is worth every penny I paid for it. You can find the light here http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/flex-arm-magnetic-led-work-light.aspx so get them while they last.
Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at fracturedturnings.com. You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425
The post The LED Magnetic Work Light: Always in the Right Place appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
Reading Nick Hornby’s book Ten Years in the Tub made me throw out a bunch of spoons I had carved. There are no wooden spoons in the book as far as I know. It’s a compilation of ten years’ worth of his column “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” that runs in the magazine Believer. A few times in the book, Hornby points out that many readers pick up some books, start them, find out they hate them, but feel they have to finish…which leads to a lengthy drawn-out period reading a book you can’t stand. He urges people to ditch those books that are dragging your down, and go read something else.
One of yesterday’s chores was to photograph stuff for here and for Maureen’s etsy site. Among the stuff I shot was a bunch of spoons I’ve had in the works for a while. Turns out I hated 1/3 of them. So I threw them into the compost. A couple of the keepers, I turned into a palimpsest of sorts; I recarved bits of them. This one had a large, boring-shaped bowl. Having nothing to lose, I picked up a knife, and had at it.
So today, it’s a spoon day.. thanks to Nick Hornby. I’ll show you what happened to that large birch spoon later…
Antiques stores are often a draw for me and I’m sure for many fellow woodworkers. You can be sure to find inspiration and education in equal measure. While browsing through one of the local venues I found a smart-looking tool chest. Chatting with the owner I discovered the chest was brought in by a person late in years and was reputed to belong to their Grandfather, who was a lifelong […]
As a family, we spend a lot of time at Valley Forge National Park. The park is within driving distance from where I live, and many weekends we spend walking, or bike riding, or taking in the history of the area.
It is a beautiful setting, in particular during this time of year, and you could easily spend many weekends just taking photographs. We use the park to take photos sometime, but mostly it is a just a peaceful place to spend time walking and talking (as well as checking out the remarkable period furniture at George Washington’s Headquarters, among many other buildings). I often preach about civic virtue, though not necessarily on this blog. I firmly believe that civic virtue begins at home in the maintaining of your house, property, and neighborhood. Though it’s easy to talk about civic virtue, it means little if you do nothing but talk. For some time I’ve felt the need to “give back” to the park, so I would usually bring a small garbage bag with me during our walks to pick up any debris or trash I happen to find. Luckily, the vast majority of those who spend time in the park not only respect its natural beauty, they also respect it as a place that is sacred in American History.
Still, while doing my part to keep the park clean is certainly rewarding, I found myself wanting to do more, so we joined The Friends of Valley Forge Park organization, which is dedicated to maintaining, preserving, and promoting the park as a place of beauty, recreation, and historical significance. Through the group I was introduced to the Hut Brigade, a small group of volunteers who work with the park rangers in maintaining and restoring the many cabins throughout the park. That sounded like something I should be a part of, so I made contact with the group and they happily welcomed me as a new volunteer. This past Saturday was my first meeting and I’m happy to report that it was a great success.
It was a beautiful autumn morning to work, cool with crystal clear and sunny skies. I met with the other volunteers at the site of the Blacksmith Cabin, which has been undergoing intensive restoration since the beginning of the summer. Many rotted logs were replaced, as well as new doorway and window frames cut in and framed out. Under the direction of a Park Ranger, my job was to remove the bracing which was in place to hold the cabin up while rotted logs were in place. Once that was finished I mixed up the mortar and used it to daub the gaps between the logs along with the other volunteers. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I’m a pretty handy guy to have on a job site. My electrical knowledge was next to useless here, but I’m pretty good with a saw, chisel, mallet, drill, and mortar (I am part Italian). The work was not easy, and though I’m not young anymore, I can still work hard, and like the volunteers of the Continental Army I felt that it was my duty to do so. And I think George Washington would be proud of what the Hut Brigade does.
When I returned home I felt the need to woodwork a little. When I first decided to build an Enfield Cupboard, I decided to make a panel raising jig for my table saw, so I picked up a piece of plywood at Woodcraft for that purpose. When my woodworking got put on hold over the summer, so too did my jig. That all ended on Saturday, as I quickly had the jig built and ready to go. I’m not a big fan of building jigs, but they have their time and place. This jig should do just fine as a panel raiser for small to medium size panels, as well as useful for making tenons (if I choose to use a table saw).
The last thing I did on Saturday involved a walnut board I almost tossed in the garbage several times. I measured it and found that there was enough there to build a small rack for my screwdrivers. In the spirit of the day, I prepped the board by hand, sawing it to width, and planing the edge straight with jack and jointer planes. The board needed a lot of work, and it made a mess of shavings. When I finally got the edge straight and square I used the table saw to rip it to final width. At that I called it a day.
At the next meeting of the Hut Brigade there will be more daubing, as well as building some doors, which should give me the chance to do a little woodworking. Whatever happens, I will be proud to be a part of it. And if you would like to donate to a very worthy cause, please visit the Friends of Valley Forge web page and give the organization consideration for your generosity; it would be most appreciated.
*Sorry for the lack of woodworking photos, my staff photographer was out with her mom.
So I rejoin the ranks of the weekend warrior. My shop doesn't have enough light to work in the evenings and frankly I am too spent to safely work after a day of work. If I didn't gouge myself with edge tools, I would certainly make mistakes and damage the workpieces.
Anyway, with Thanksgiving approaching, I've had to hustle to get a harvest table complete. It's coming along pretty well.
Gluing up 3 boards to make the top. That is some crazy photo effect my new phone did. I don't like it, and I know how to turn it off, but I did want to show how the artificial contrast reveals the crazy reversing grain on the boards (note the "cathedrals" running in opposite directions towards each other). Makes the surface planing very tricky. It's possible that it is a really bad idea to use boards like this for a tabletop, since they will move unevenly. I'm using grooves and Rockler fasteners (space-age "buttons") to accommodate this. Time will tell.
Trimming the top, the old-fashioned way. It's not hard and is faster and mellower than using a powersaw.
Edge-jointing the top. This table will have dropleaves along the long sides, so they need to be pretty square. In some cases a rule-joint would be used, and I was thinking about going that route. However I looked around at some old tables that used plain old square joints and really like the simplicity; the rule joints to me look a little too fancy even though they make perfect functional sense.
Here you can see the base dryfit, and perhaps perceive how the dropleaf supports work. Little sections (2 on each long face) swing out by pivoting on a nail in their center. It works pretty well and is about as simple as it can get.
Here are some pics of Jims first wooden hand plane. He's been on a couple of my courses and has devoured David Finck's fine book on making hand planes.
Here are the sides separated on the bandsaw and below is the blade bed being cleaned up with a sharp block plane.
A very well cleaned up bed, flat and square.
Here's the cross pin with the shoulders cut on the table saw ready for the round tenons to be formed with an 8 mm plug cutter.
The plane after glue up, next to a kingwood mini smoother.
And this is it complete, a lovely smoother in Cocobolo.
For anyone who is interested in having a go themselves I will be teaching a course on making a wooden hand plane at West Dean College from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd May 2015.
Making the first adjuster yesterday seemed to take forever, like four hours forever. Making the vertical adjuster today took half the time. I can’t decide if it’s because I already had my chisels laying on the bench, or I had headphones on listening to Lightnin’ Hopkins. Either way, I should have time after lunch to make a bit more progress.
Though I’m still coughing and sniffling a little, I just couldn’t bear to sit home while there’s work to be done in the shop. And I want my kitchen done. So, I came in to work on the base of my kitchen island. I won’t be writing about it for the magazine (the dimensions and purpose are too particular to my narrow needs), so I’ll share bits of it here. […]
This bench has sat around the shop, half-completed, for more than a year now. I guess there is something to be said about deadlines driving results and how you can lose inspiration in the middle of a long job. I also think the fact that it is a project built from purchased plans takes away some of the joy. I mean, you just read the instructions and you are home free, right?
The art nouveau lines, as elegant as they are, often point to less-than-elegant construction techniques. All those curvy bits have to be joined together and there is no way around some less-than-stable short grain appendages. That being said, the designer did the best he could with what ends up being a very nice piece.
I departed from Taunton's plans in a couple of ways:
First, once I had the skeleton of the structure built I ignored the plans and worked off story sticks and my own actual measurements. This is sort of a given on all custom furniture, but it is easy to forget when you get in paint by number mode. Plus, nearly every set of plans I've worked with have at least one error and this was no exception. To their credit, I seem to remember Taunton sending out an email correcting the errors in the plan.
Second, I replaced some of the tedious double dowelled tenons on the intricate back with more integrated domino joints. It feels more secure and it has little effect on the glue-up choreography. As with all domino/plate joiner work the most important thing to keep in mind is not "Is this perfectly centered?, but "Am I referencing the same faces when I use the tool. I referenced the bottom (using the bottom plate on the mft table to cut the rails; placing a stop to match the bottom of that rail on the stile.) and the front of the piece using one of the stops on the domino face. With a little concentration it went quickly.
The glue-up is complicated and you may want a patient assistant to ease the pain. I used slow-setting epoxy for most of the large joints and dominoes but Titebond III for the dowels. It was just easier to squirt glue into the round holes than coax the gooey epoxy into such a small space. What can you say about a fancy glue-up? As long as your marriage survives, and you arrive at the end with an assembled piece of furniture, it is best forgotten.
I used stainless steel screws, countersunk and topped by oak dowels to secure the seat slats and it will get several coats of Epiphanes Marine Varnish before it goes out in the Spring. I hope to knock back the gloss finish with some steel wool to get a less plastic looking finish.
When Richard Maguire posted his fantastic entry on using a notched batten to hold work in place on the bench, he was eviscerated by a certain segment of the woodworking populace because Richard said it was an old technique and yet he did not offer up footnotes and cites.
Today I’m going to set the record straight on that.
But first, a little begging. If you haven’t tried using a notched batten, stop reading. Close your laptop and go down to the shop. Make a notched batten and try it out. The notched batten is the difference between needing an end vise and not needing an end vise.
And now back to our regularly scheduled exoneration. Today while editing one of the translated sections for “Roubo on Furniture” (due in early 2015), I came across this passage:
To trim [set right] the planks on their edges, you hold them along the length of the bench with holdfasts, or even when they are too short, you hold them at one end with a holdfast, and the other with a planing stop [figure 17], which is itself held on the workbench with a holdfast, and which you close against the end of the plank with strikes of the mallet. The planing stop is a piece of hard wood, at the end of which is made a triangular notch, in which enters the end of the planks, see figure 19.
Yup. It is the notched batten, albeit a little shorter than the one currently on my bench. Curious, I went back to the original French to take apart some of the words. Roubo calls the device a le pied de biche, which in modern French comes out as “crowbar.” But more literally is “doe’s foot,” which is much more evocative. Fig. 19, by the way, shows a board being planed on its face, not just its edge.
So now we have a name for it. We have a solid 18th-century account of its use and a drawing.
And so I say to Richard’s critics: Shut it.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Workbenches