The shop at Popular Woodworking has been a bit of an embarrassment for the, oh, last year or so. We’ve made a desultory effort now and again to whip things into shape, but ever since our garage door was moved to the far end of the shop (as far away from as possible and around two corners and a fence from the dumpster and recycling bin*), we’ve been less apt […]
|The Jonathan Fisher House|
|Detail of "Blue Hill, Maine" (circa 1853-1857) by Fitz Henry Lane|
|Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.|
|Carriages in front of Clough House in Blue Hill, ME|
|George A. Clough, Architect|
|"Ideal Lodge" of Blue Hill designed by Clough for Effie Ober Kline|
|Clough designed the Suffolk County Courthouse on Pemberton Square, Boston|
I did get two sets of the Llidl chisels, 8, 13, 18 and 24mm, and used them in the demonstrations I did today for the students. They are indeed one and the same as the Aldi set and they take and keep the same keen edge that parallel or exceed the best chisel sets available today. In north European redwood, tough stuff I have in stock, they kept their edges in chopping dovetails, paring and other operations throughout the day on one initial sharpening. The price is the same at £7.95 for four found in Aldi stores. The names of course have been changed to suit the supermarkets chain brand name. These are long-term chisels and could be temporary gap fillers until you find ones you like the looks of, or they can be your lifetime chisels, the ones you reach for every time you cut dovetails or mortise and tenons. They have been out for a couple of weeks in Lidl stores but at least now you will have two sources to buy from in Europe and the UK, which will likely mean you can find them four times a year. They were still in Thursday so just thought you might want a set if you’re in the UK.
Anyway, these are the worst, most gappy dovetails, I've ever had in a project. So please, don't zoom in too much into the pictures!
I want the cabinet assembled so that it won't fall apart when the glue loosens its strength. The top and bottom have the pins, thus the bottom won't fall on the floor when the glue fails. And this is the top of the cabinet, the sides are "hanging"on the pins (gappy!) from the top.
Another thing I learned (again) is the importance of good lighting. It is easy to put the scribe line into the shadow of the saw when the light comes mostly from one side. So I dug out an old tablelamp so I have a spotlight in excatly the right place. That simple thing alone greatly increases the quality of the work.
The bottom is sticking out a bit on the front side. Combine that with the half blind dovetails and it means that the edge isn't straight all the way across. I had to cut out part of it. I choose to use a handsaw and cut as close and straight as I could to the line, pairing the result a bit with a chisel to make the side as straight as possible. I learn now (again) that accurate dovetails are easier to make when all parts are straight and square. You can compensate for errors here, but it is just easier to start with straight stuff. That means that I have to revise my view on shooting boards in regards to dovetail cutting. The shooting board makes life easier in this regard. Anyway, here is a picture of the cut, to make it easier to understand my ramblings.
Another "learning oportunity" was my choice of pin width. I made them so narrow, combined with the rather strong slope of the dovetail sides, that the opening of the pin sockets was too narrow for my smallest chisel, which is 3mm wide. Luckily I had a 1mm #1 carving chisel which saved the day. That tiny little thing with the very flexible blade was brilliant. It holds up admiringly well under the tough work of clearing out dovetail waste!
So, after much struggling, mostly due to my own making, I managed to assemble the carcas. Next job is the shelfs.
I plan to make a dent in building the seat for the Chevy today, but first I had a few details to wrap up.
Last year I got a set of Lie-Nielsen bevel edge chisels for Christmas. I picked out the 3 or 4 chisels I needed most, flattened and polished the backs and sharpened them. That left a lot of chisels standing in the wings, I finally decided to flatten the backs on all of them, re-doing the ones I’d previously done too as I wasn’t happy with the job I’d done. I finished flattening and sharpening them this morning, and I’m very glad to be done with that than-you-very-much!
A few thoughts stand out in my mind. The most obvious is that if I never have to flatten another chisel or plane blade that would be OK. Second, the world needs a good sharpening jig. I have the Veritas Mark II and the Eclipse. Suffice it to say that neither is what I would call a good sharpening jig.
While I’m thinking about it, Jonathan at The Bench Blog asked about the London pattern handled chisel in the background of a recent post, so here are a couple of pics. It’s a big chisel, but frail thin. The blade tapers in thickness from maybe 5/16″ thick near the handle to 1/8″ at the start of the bevel. The bevel is a very low angle, and when I sharpen it I put I higher secondary bevel on it. The back could be flatter, but that’s a flattening session I’m not ready for.
In other news, I wrapped up the last details on the saw frame, I feel pretty good about it. I tuned up all of the surfaces with a plane, followed by scraping. I also added a cove detail on the two outer corners. And I made and glued in the blocks that clamp onto the gimbal mechanism. I got a nice snug fit on the mortises, so with a little glue this should be plenty strong. I’ll give it a light sanding after I take the clamps off later and set it aside with the other finished parts.
Which brings me to sawing the giant dovetail at the front of the seat assembly. I decided to make some practice cuts in an off cut and there are a couple of issues. First, my dovetail saw doesn’t have the depth to go to the bottom, it’s at least 3/32″ short. The blade is also a little fine for a 1.75″ thick rip cut. I can use my tenon saw, but it’s coarser than I’d like for a dovetail. I think I can make either work though.
I saw “I think”, because I can’t actually see what I’m doing to make the cut. The sun coming through the shop window in the mornings is really bright, and the cut line is essentially invisible. The picture below gives you a sense of this. So while I wait for the sun to move I’ll grab lunch and then chop some of the mortises for this assembly.
After building 27 Roorkee chairs myself and teaching students to build 35 more, I’m ready to make a DVD to share the turning, joinery and leatherwork necessary to build one of these campaign-style chairs.
I’ll be filming the DVD at F+W in about a week. I don’t have a release date for the project, but the company is fast – very fast – at editing these videos and bringing them to market.
This weekend I’m prepping all the parts to make two chairs so we have parts to work on that are at all different stages of the construction process. This prep work is probably overkill because I can now build one of the these chairs in about two days. But I was a Boy Scout and we learned to “be prepared” (in my troop that meant “be prepared to have your tent urinated on by bullies”).
One of the fun aspects of this project is I’ve asked Jason Thigpen at Texas Heritage Woodworks to hand-stitch stitch the arms for this matched pair of chairs, which are going to a customer right after Thanksgiving. Jason makes a lot of cool stuff, including shop aprons and tool rolls. I plan to order an apron from his as soon as I wear out my current one.
The DVD will be aimed at the general woodworker who has never turned or done leatherwork. We’ll be using only one turning tool to make all the chair parts on a midi-size lathe. The leatherwork will be done with basic hand tools – mostly a utility knife and a rotary punch.
And we’re definitely going to cover finishing with shellac and wax – I’m going to make the case we should show how to do it with an inexpensive HVLP system.
If you can’t wait for the DVD, the complete instructions to build the chair are covered in my latest book, “Campaign Furniture.”
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture
I wrote my last blog post in May: eek!
I’ve been spending as much time as I can in the workshop and have completed a few projects since my last post: a keepsake box, an ebony chopping board and a corner cupboard. Plus some other things in between.
I’m going to start with the keepsake box. I’ve prepared a few posts about it, which I’ll be publishing over the next week or so.
The keepsake box was for my little nephew, who was born in January this year. A few months before he was born I obtained a nice piece of Dutch Elm for this project. I really like elm. It’s got a varied texture, a deep reddish colour and is nice to work with.
The design of the box was inspired by Paul Sellers’ tool chest on Woodworking Masterclasses. You can read about his tool chest here. My plan was to make a smaller version, with just one drawer.
There are many cool features in this chest which I wanted to try out. For one, it’s got a frame and panel top and bottom – a technique I hadn’t applied until now. Another feature is the lid, which is made by first making the box, fixing the top and bottom and then sawing the box in two. Very scary prospect, but I wanted to try this as well. And third, the drawer. This would be my first ever drawer, so that was also something to look forward to and of course a necessary skill to master.
Anyway, here’s a sneak peak of the end result. I’ll use the next few blogs to document the highlights and share what I learned along the way. Hope you enjoy!
What does this mean? It means I am calling all individuals involved in Historic Preservation of the Gulf Coast Region to:
1) Give me a shout. Email, Call, Smoke Signals, or whatever means works for you.
2) If you are able, join the facebook group - Historical Structural Preservation - Gulf Coast
3) Be ready for a notification of a meeting to be held at the LSU Rural Life Museum for a round table discussion.
When I began studying Louisiana Trades I felt quite isolated and had difficulty finding resources. Again when I began taking a more academic approach to preservation I again found it difficult to locate resources in the form of publications and people. This all, including the meeting, will be meant as a meet and greet and sharing of info and resources. It is geared towards making these resources easily and readily available to the public.
It is my hope to make preservation efforts of both public and privately owned sites and artifacts accessible. I would like to publish a resource guide, a sort of whose who, so that when you need Bousillage resources you are provided a list of publications and personnel who excel in this field. Need information on building stabilization, historic use of tools, teaching resources... here ya go. Here are the books and people involved in that.
This will obviously be a collective issue and the results will only be a good as we make it. As it stands right now, this resource I am speaking of may already exist... but who knows about it? If it does, where is it? Let's make it more accessible.
I have spoken to many in the field and this project has been met with encouragement and optimism. I will notify all those who I know in preservation when the first meeting date is set. The point of this post is to let others know about the plan - so please share it with all Gulf Coast Preservationist you know!
Jean N Becnel
Contact Jean N Becnel
I’ll admit it. I have an obsession. I’m fascinated by ellipses. I’m amazed at how many different ways you can create an ellipse. And most of the regular followers of this blog know that I’ve carried on about the subject, ad nauseum.
I’m just going to throw one more method out there for your consideration. Then, I promise that I won’t visit this subject matter again…
Most serious woodworkers are familiar with the “string and nails” method of making an ellipse. It’s not a bad method, but it can be imprecise, as nail placement can be a little off and string can stretch. In fact this method is many times referred to as the Gardener’s Ellipse. It seems that elliptical garden beds were quite the rage and this became the preferred method of layout. However, in less agrarian applications, there is another method that is both simple and very precise. It does require a set of points and some type of marking device. Usually these points would be manufactured trammel points, although they can be as simple as two nails. So, here’s the method:
First, strike perpendicular lines;
Our goal is to create an ellipse with a major axis of 18″ and a minor axis of 12″. Set the points at half of each axis from the marking device. In this case half of the minor axis is 6″ and half of the major axis is 9″;
Secure any type of squared guide in one of the quadrants that you’ve drawn;
Carefully begin to rotate the device while keeping the points in contact with the square guide. (BTW, most folks will refer to two trammel points on a stick as a “beam compass”. A beam compass, of course, is used for drawing arcs and circles. But with the addition of a third point, the beam compass becomes a trammel beam (also referred to as a “trammel rod” or simply “trammel”) and can be used to create elliptical lines, something that can’t be done with dividers or wing compasses, hence the layout of “two arc” ovals. Many old texts show the trammel being used with a cross shaped guide. This would have been a common device in engineering or layout departments.)
The following series of pictures demonstrates the actual travel of the trammel beam.
After one fourth of the ellipse has been drawn simply position the squared guide in the other quadrants and repeat the process. The result will be a precise, repeatable ellipse.
The second video has been uploaded to YouTube showing this great pair of waterstones in action. If anyone is interested I have plenty in stock.
Thomas Day (c. 1801 – 1861) was a free black American furniture designer and cabinetmaker in Caswell County, North Carolina. Day’s furniture-making business became one of the largest of its kind in North Carolina, employing at one point up to twelve workers, and distributing furniture to wealthier customers throughout the state. Much of Day’s furniture was produced for prominent political leaders, the state government, and the University of North Carolina.
And HERE is a link to the Wikipedia article from which I borrowed the above paragraph.
I became aware of Thomas Day from my friend Jerome Bias. I met Jerome during the first year of Roy Underhill’s Woodwight’s School in Pittsboro, NC. That first year, Roy held Wednesday night seminars on various hand tool topics. Jerome saw me struggling with a card scraper and came over to bail me out. A friendship began that night.
On occasion, we will go to an auction preview, antiques show or museum exhibit. Often these events are related to Thomas Day. I have developed a deep appreciation for Mr. Day’s work and his incredible story.
On with the blog.
This is about variations on a design for a dresser from one shop. It may contain too many pictures but I think it’s worth it.
I saw this first one at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond:
And here is another view:
Then last December, the local auction house had its quarterly catalog sale, always interesting. They were featuring several pieces of Thomas Day furniture. Among these were two dressers.
And this one:
They are very similar yet very different.We can examine the variation in two similar pieces from the same shop. Although it was Thomas Day’s shop, it is unlikely he built much furniture as the shop grew. He had staff, paid and unpaid. These pieces might have been made years apart and by different craftsmen from changing designs of the day.
Look at the gallery drawers (The red one is always first):
The other end of drawers, dovetailed.
Column capitals and drawers.
And another Day dresser from the auction that is different than the Museum dresser and the above auction dressers. Yet similar:
And the last Thomas Day dresser, from MESDA, the Museum of Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem in Winston Salem, NC:
And we close with my own private Thomas Day game table:
This table became available and choosing to believe it was genuine, I bought. Jerome was skeptical and gave it a 40% chance of being the real thing. Until we visited a dealer that had a large number of the Day pieces and we saw this one:
Without knowing the detailed provenance of a piece, it’s difficult to definitely say where things are from. Designs are stolen. Craftsmen moved on taking skill and ideas with them. Customers want what they have seen and coveted. I choose to believe it is a Day piece.
Jerome wrote an article about Thomas Day for Popular Woodworking that you can read HERE, I hope. It is well worth the read.
Rodger Hargrave is as far as I can tell, not just an expert, he is the expert. He makes violins, really good violins. As far as I can tell, perfect violins. But that is not all. He has a quick wit, amazing skills and serious expertise. All this and he has gracefully shared his methods. He is generous enough to banter with the likes of me on Maestronet When he is not earning a living producing masterpieces, he often shares his knowledge in detail and generously. So if you want to visit the best, then by all means go to his website.
But the real meat of this post is that he has recently made available his book detailing the making of a double bass. This is the real deal given freely by him under Creative Commons license, here is the link to his library. So if you want a detailed walk through to building a true master work, here it is. A master work detailed by a true living master.
The read only version, in PDF form.
The Version for printing a Book, also provided in PDF form.
Roger Hargrave requested help in distributing his book. Who am I to protest!
For beginners, I think our first week went pretty well. After opening up the site on Wednesday, November 5 we paused to catch our breath (at least publicly) and on Sunday Glen Huey posted a SketchUp model of his Shaker Stool project.
Bright and early Monday morning, Chuck and Glen hopped in the truck and headed east, making it to New Jersey in time to celebrate Frank Klausz’ birthday. Along the way, they gave me a call and we all decided that our PDF presentations should come in two versions, one with the video content embedded and one without. I got under the hood, and had the slow connection friendly version of Glen’s stool article online later that day. Also on Monday I posted on the blog about using SketchUp to make life easier in the shop.
Tuesday was the release day for our second “360 on 360 Woodworking” podcast titled “Spray, Brush or Rag“. Our podcasts are released twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday) and are six minutes of the three of us weighing in on how we approach certain aspects of woodworking. You can subscribe to the podcast either through RSS feed or through Itunes.
On Wednesday we released our second PDF presentation, a story (with lots of photos) about the Roycroft Inn & Campus in New York. That led to a busy Thursday that saw:
- Episope 3 of our podcast: Routers: Trim or Fullsize
- Glen Huey blogging about an unusual use for Tiger Maple
- Bob Lang blogging about Essential Tools at a Good Price
Today has been a “work behind the scenes” day, I’m juggling several tasks for our December 15 “first issue” release and tidying up before Glen and Chuck get back to town. We’ll save where they’ve been and what they were up to for next week, and for future issues of 360 WoodWorking. All good stuff, and if you become a subscriber you won’t miss any of it.
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m wary of tool reviews in magazines or online. With rare exception they are uninformed or (worse) misguided. And believe me: I am the first to admit that I was uninformed and misguided when I started writing and editing these reviews in the 1990s. In my experience, Milquetoast reviews are not the result of malice. They are the result of several things. Readers want […]
One of the front-burner activities over the past couple of months was getting ready for our first full winter in the Allegheny Highlands, where winters are essentially identical to those of upstate New York or central Michigan. Having spent my formative years in Minnesota, admittedly in southern Minnesota, the more tropical part, the upcoming winter in the mountains is something about which I am fairly sanguine despite three decades in the Mid-Atlantic. However, since my bride of 34 years is from Southern California the angst is running high; my task of keeping the cabin warm and toasty is priority #1.
The assembly of gigantic firewood piles has continued apace. Virtually all of the available spaces around the cabin are filled to the brim with cut, split, and mostly well-seasoned wood (I especially have sought out dead trees on the hoof). This picture is of the cabin front as of last weekend.
We’ve even loaded up the side deck with firewood.
On top of this stash, my pal Mike told me he had a bunch of dead and risky trees he wanted removed from his farm, so for the past several days I’ve been working with him to accomplish that. The result for me has been five heaping trucks-full of mostly already-seasoned firewood, now awaiting splitting and stacking into giant piles out the the lower barn. The local tradition is to always have two full years of firewood on hand. We literally see firewood piles the size of garages here.
Add that to Mrs. Donsbarn’s efforts to get the gardens prepared for spring, including the nurturing of greens in the front raised bed with a plastic hoop house (her goal is to have fresh greens for Thanksgiving) and things are shaping up here at the homestead.