After all the lumber was milled and cut to size I spent time carefully laying out the mortises. The plans call for through mortises at the bottom of each leg, so I took my time to ensure I didn’t cause any damage to surrounding areas. Additionally the legs are visible on three side since the top will be circular.
A couple of hours and the mortises are in place with no real problems. It was very relaxing to chop away and I could feel my stress fall away. Took a couple of sharpenings of the chisel but each mortise on took a pass from each side. The first pass was about an inch deep then I flipped the piece and chopped the remaining half inch from the other side.
Before cleaning up for the day I laid out the tenons on the lower rail and the center bridal joint. Haven’t cut one of those in a while so I’ll have to think about the best approach this evening. The upper rail is dovetailed into the top of the leg which is also a technique that I’ve done infrequently. One of the reasons for this table was the couple of joints that will make it fun.
Some friends have a century-old painted wicker rocker that is a prized accent on their front porch, and one of the rockers broke. Several times.
I find that many of these old rockers are made from “run of the mill” lumber which can be good or bad, and when they are bad there is just no fixing them. So, I made a new one.
I began by tracing the remaining sound rocker on a piece of 2x framing lumber and band sawing the bottom profile into the 2x and ripped a number of strips from the same 2x board to build up a new laminated rocker (the only time I have used the table saw in a couple of months).
Using the just-sawn contour as the form, I laminated a four-ply rocker from the strips using yellow PVA as it was going to be exposed to the porch environment. I clamped it all together, wrapped in wax paper to make sure it comes apart as it should, and let it sit until the glue was hard. A couple days later it popped free just fine.
Pinching the rough laminated piece in the four dogs of my vise I planed and shaped it in just a few minutes.
My first step was to clean up the glue squeeze-out with a plane which took 30 seconds per side.
Once that was done I traced the original rocker again to determine the front to back taper.
With a spokeshave I achieved the desired taper line in a few minutes.
Getting the holes of the right size in the right place, I finished off the project with some final shaping with spokeshaves and rasps, and it was ready to be sent home.
Everybody loves a success story, especially one that involves a boyhood dream and a relentless drive to turn moments of near-failure into that success.
Thanks to shows like This Built America (a new multimedia platform from AOL) we have a chance to explore the companies and people re-imagining American manufacturing. In other words, the rebirth of the Great American Success Story!
We meet founder Lewis Bratcher—a relentless American driven by boyhood dreams of living in America’s last frontier. Surviving financial hardships and waning industry, Bratcher fought to keep his Alaskan dream alive by risking it all to open The Great Alaskan Bowl Company. Along the way, Bratcher brought innovation that had not been seen in woodworking before.
For The Great Alaskan Bowl Company, representing Alaska in This Built America is another testament to their hard work and the American spirit.
Next to the couch where I nap, there is a side table that supports my iced tea. It functions well, but the table has no warmth and it’s design leave me feeling empty. Looking for a simple table online for a few months to provide inspiration, I have not found anything that meets my criteria. In an act of submission I noted a design in Fine Woodworking that will do until a different design comes to mind.
This morning was spent milling the pieces of lumber for the legs and digging for enough pieces to make the top. Failing to find enough lumber I will have to purchase some next week. I’m glad to be listening to my planes slice through oak and feeling for the changes in grain.
Yesterday I did the simple stuff to get the shop back into fighting order — I moved all of the stained glass stuff to the metal shop, used a roll-around cart I had in the other shop to hold the parts of the Thorsen Cabinet until I assemble them, and just did a general clean up.
I’m at the point where I can start another project — and I’m on the fence between the Blacker Serving Table and building some stuff to make the shop easier to work in. I measured up a bit of open wall space between my drill press and the dust collector yesterday and thought about what kind of cabinet I could put there to store my hand held power tools, drill bits and router bits.
The bottom shelf will hold the routers, the one above will hold the biscuit joiner and my two pneumatic nailers. It’s bad planning not to have space for a finish nailer too, but I don’t plan to buy one anytime soon. Probably not until immediately after I build this cabinet is things go as they usually do…
The other shelves should be plenty adequate to hold any other miscellany that presents itself. I’m inclined not to build in dedicated storage for router bits as my long term plan is to build a cabinet base for my router tablet handle that.
There will be a door — just a flat sheet of plywood inn a piano hinge, to keep dust out and make in look nicer. This will be just a simple lash up — no fancy edge banding. 3/4″ shop ply for most of it, a 1/2″ back inset by a 1/2″ so I can have a french cleat on the back to hang it. I’ll have a screw strip too, lower down, as this is pretty tall and could use more reinforcement. The shelves sit in dados, the top and bottom are a tongue and groove assembly. The back is trapped in a groove.
This would be faster to build with pocket screws – if I had that setup. Just thinking about it, there are probably a couple of hours in setting up the dado stack for different cuts to get it done accurately. And it would eliminate the gluing and clamping. Anyone have any experience building cabinets with pocket hole screws?
I’m going to make a cup of coffee first and mediate on what I want to do today before committing to doing this, and fighting the weekend beach traffic to get to the Home Despot for plywood.
The traditional tool for roughing out a seat is an adze. I don't have one, and they're not cheap. I do, however, have this:
It's a Lancelot "chainsaw" carving attachment for a 4.5" angle grinder. I bought it 7 or 8 years ago and never used it. I think it was only about 30 bucks. Boy, did it come in handy. I was able to rough out my first seat in about 15 minutes. Like a router, it tends to self-feed if you move it in the wrong direction, though not nearly as bad as a router does. But once you figure out the right direction, it's extremely controllable. Of course, it leaves a very rough surface.
But another half hour with the travisher and it was looking pretty good for a first try. And most important, I know what I need to do to make the first real seat a lot better than this.
The real seats will get scraped and probably sanded, but this was good enough for a prototype.
Next, I bored and reamed the seat holes. I'm using 14° for both the rake and splay. I got these numbers from a drawing of a birdcage chair in John Kassay's wonderful book, The Book of American Windsor Furniture, which has dozens of elaborate, scaled drawings. Using the tables in Drew Langsner's The Chairmaker's Workshop, I converted these angles to a 45° sighting angle and 20° resultant angle.
I forgot to take a picture of the reamer in use (the one I showed in this post), but suffice it to say that it works great. It cuts slowly, but that's an advantage, because it gives you multiple chances to dial in the right angles. My first hole was a little wonky--not surprising since I'd never done this before--but the other three were pretty much dead on.
This looks enough like the bottom half of a chair that I think I can tackle the real thing. But first, I'm going to try mocking up at least the outer spindles and the crest rail.
I rubbed out the spider table this afternoon, gave it a coat of wax and re-attached the top. The top is flatter than it was before, but not as flat as it should be. But with several coats of linseed oil to bring out the figure, and a topcoat of clear shellac tinted with a touch of garnet, I think it looks presentable. Up close there are still some scars from wear and tear — and some stupid mistakes when I made this a zillion hears ago as a young, clueless woodworker. Now that I’m an old, clueless woodworker I’m sure I’d have much more interesting mistakes to talk about.
I wanted to draw this up with the legs splayed at a 45 degree angle, then I had another idea for a spiderweb inlay, then I got distracted by something else. Story of my life. Welcome to “McGlynn on Being Distracted”.
Yesterday was shop cleaning day. I had just finished a week long project building two English-style field gates (more on that down the road) and the shop was trashed. Cedar shavings and dust were everywhere. The shop smelled incredible, but I couldn't walk in it. I also found a dead mouse in the shavings. Actually, it wasn't dead, just stuck in the trap and flopping around. I chucked the whole works into the woods behind the shop, then walked back with my head hung low. I asked God to forgive me for killing one of his precious creatures. Then I ate some fried chicken, thanking God for that precious creature.
So with all the shavings around, and on the hottest, stickiest day of the year, I thought it was time to flatten the Plate 11-style, French Oak bench again.
Last February I flattened it for the first time after the initial flattening (so technically the second time), removing about 1/8" from the dead center of the top (across the width). It's heart side up, so it crowns. This time, about 7 months later, the crown was about the same.
The odd thing is, the underside of the top wasn't cupped all that much. Technically speaking, you'd think there'd be about 1/4" gap in the middle (1/8" in February plus 1/8" couple days ago) but it was more like 1/16". I think what's happening is that the concave side is doing more of a linear shrink than a curvy one, so, not a parallel curve as with the heart side. I need to look back and see what Hoadley says about this.
The problem with flattening a crowned top is trying to keep the jointer plane from following the crown. I concentrate my effort just in the middle, and literally scrub the top with the plane, pressing down hard and making choppy strokes directly across the grain (90 degrees to the long edges). I don't tilt my plane to empty shavings or prevent them from getting drawn back into the mouth. The latter is really not an issue when traversing since the shavings are not long and durable. I use my breath to blow shavings from the path if they get in the way, again, without lifting the plane. I eat lamb shawarma for lunch, and that makes the breath more powerful for blowing the chunkier shavings I get from traversing. I want to maintain the feel of the sole staying engaged with an imagined flat plane as I traverse along the bench. As long as I concentrate on the middle, I'm usually fine.
Once I've made a couple passes, I check for twist. The red arrow points to the high side of the distant winding stick. My top is out by about 3/16" over the length of the bench (a little over 9'). Normally that wouldn't bother me, but today I was feeling particularly manly. I now take diagonal passes on the high corners to even them out, then make another traversing pass all along the top.
Then I check the length of the bench for flat, since traversing strokes only make it flat front to back. I had two humps directly over these two holdfast holes. I concentrated some more traversing passes in these areas until they were flat with the rest of the top. Then to even it all out I made two diagonal passes along the top. Then, just to make sure I kept the top as stable as possible, I took one pass on the underside of the bench with the plane held upside down. Lamb shawarma can do this.
For the last pass I sharpen the jointer plane with a camber and take two lighter traversing passes across the top to give it a toothy texture. Done. I did take the leg vise off the bench for the flattening operation because I needed to trim the length of the chop by just a bit. That's my St. Peter's Cross (okay, Crisscross) in the bench leg, and without which I would not want to work. Roubo says to place a piece of wood on the floor between the chop and the leg, equal to the thickness of the work, but if Roubo were alive today, he'd be a Benchcrafted customer (ahem).
The theory behind using a top slab with the heart up is partly that when the top moves it becomes concave on the underside and wedges itself onto the legs. This is partly true if my bench is any gauge. The top on my bench has arched up in the middle (as expected) so it's actually risen off the legs more at the rear of each leg than the front. Not by much, but its still visible. These joints were tight when we drove the top on last year, as below. Ignore the space between the tenons. That's end grain that got mashed down when I let Jeff Miller do some work on my bench. Never. Again.
My label also shows evidence of the movement. Next year at the FORP II, we'll figure out a better place to attach our labels. And this time we won't glue them to our cracks.
Early this summer I started to get e-mail notices about the Woodworking in America conference to be held in September 2014. The location this year is Winston-Salem, NC. My wife and I really wanted to go. First we looked at our schedule. Then we looked at our savings account. Finally, we looked at each other. We shook our heads and said, “not this year.”
Then just yesterday one of the conference organizers contacted me (by virtue of my being a moderator on WoodNet, I think), asking if I knew of anybody who could do A/V and wanted to go to the conference. As it happens, my wife and I have done a lot of sound tech work and even a little camera work for various churches we have attended. I eagerly volunteered our services.
So now we have a week to get ready for WIA 2014! This time we’ll be taking our four children, which will be an adventure for them and for us. Kids 12-and-under get into the Marketplace free, and there’s a “kids’ corner” this year, too. I’m already drilling them on the names of tools so they won’t embarrass themselves at the exhibitors’ booths. My wife and I trade off on childcare duties, and there are so many kid-friendly, educational things to do in Winston-Salem that we’re having a hard time deciding where to take them when they aren’t at WIA.
There will be lots of exciting things going on at conference, too. I’ll be reconnecting with old acquaintances, and I hope to meet Drew Langsner, whose book Country Woodcraft persuaded me that I could make useful things with a few, simple hand tools. Lee Valley has promised a big unveiling of new products at their booth, too. But it’s always the unplanned things that end up being really memorable.
Whatever happens at WIA 2014 won’t stay there. I’ll be taking pictures and blogging about it here next weekend.
Tagged: WIA, WIA Marketplace, Woodworking in America
While some critics put my work on par with cat poo, few have ever considered that my work could actually contain and control feline fecal matter.
But reader John Notis or Portland, Ore., is a visionary.
While he prefers a wall cabinet for his woodworking tools, he took the basics from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” to make this litter box. It is impressive. (The only thing more impressive would be to get one’s cats to defecate in a wall cabinet.)
I hope my wife does not see this post or I know what I will be building next week.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest
|Washstand H:36.25" W: 20.25" D:16"|
What I like about this example is that this was made at the end of the artisan era. It was made completely with hand tools right before the industrial revolution took over. And it’s even more rare to have a signature. This one has a pencil inscription which reads, “Nathaniel Brown Esq., painter. Portland, May 21, 1829.” It’s pretty exciting to me to see these things with original surfaces. They are around still but so many of them were subjected to the lye tanks in the 60s and 70s. Now they sit in people’s cottages naked and shamefaced, exposing the paint grade pine and maple that was used to construct them. It’s a shame in my book. The ironic thing is that in its day the whole appeal (and dare I say ‘soul’) of these things was the decorative painting. O the damning blows of the winds of fashion!
I know some people roll their eyes at this stuff when they see it. But you know what? This piece is almost 200 years old. I’d say that’s pretty impressive… and worth respecting.
|Dovetailed rail joint|
|"Yellow Wash-stand" by Steven Spurrier, c.1939 Courtesy: Tate|
It’s always tricky business talking about upcoming projects because people want updates on their favorites.
So as my e-mail Inbox is sagging from the weight…. Peter Galbert’s book “Windsor Foundations” (still a working title), is still a work in progress. The reason is the drawings. There are hundreds of hand-drawn illustrations that Pete has to finish up.
What you see above is a low-resolution screen capture. These illustrations are going to take his already amazing text to another level. In fact, Pete’s drawings look so good that are re-evaluating the paper stock we’ll be using for the book to better display his handwork.
So Pete’s text is done. A bunch of us have edited it (thanks Raney Nelson, Caleb James and Megan Fitzpatrick in particular). And now Pete has to finish things up so he’s happy with his drawings. He’s shooting for the end of the month.
So don’t send him an e-mail. Don’t attend his workshops at Woodworking in America (kidding). Let the boy draw.
It will be worth the wait.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Chairmaking by Peter Galbert
Painted and stained finishes, enhanced with glaze are a time tested finishing method for furniture builders. Anyone doing period work or serious antique restoration is familiar with the technique. I’ve been building a dining table for my daughter and her family. She said that she would like a “shabby chic” finish on the table. In the spirit of compromise, I suggested that I’d paint and glaze the base, then finish the top in stain and varnish.
Now paint to me means one of two things, either you use oil based enamel or milk paint (lime and casein). But I’m a liberal, tree hugging kind of a guy, so I decided to try a finish using General Finishes Milk Paint and Glaze Effects. I must say that I was very impressed with the GF Milk Paint. It’s not “real milk paint”, but it works pretty well and a couple of coats will give you a decent base. Then, I, reluctantly, started to work with the glaze. I should have known better. Anything that is soluble in water dries quickly. In summertime it dries very quickly. Well, when you’re glazing, quick drying is the last thing you want.
Glazing is an art. And it takes time to be artistic. You need time to accomplish effects like dry-brushing or graining. You have to be able to “push the glaze around”. It must remain “plastic” for an extended period.
The water based glaze dried so quickly that I was not able to control the level of effect. I got “shabby”, but it certainly was not the effect that I could have achieved had I used a oil based glaze, like Behlens (or even an old can of stain that had settled out and the oil poured off).
If “re-purposing” is your thing, I’d say that the water based glaze would probably be satisfactory. But the serious furniture maker would probably be better served by staying with “tried and true” methods, like oil based glaze. Sometimes it’s tough to be “green”.
The lost and abused now lies against the cared for and stands out. It’s as if it longs to belong – to become becoming – and the ones I seek are those where the work changes the present for the best in the future. A man came in and said his sons didn’t want his woodworking tools and that he had the best ones anyone could want. They asked him what they would do with them. He wished he could give them to them, but they saw no value in them. I am sure they will likely end up as the unloved even though they actually enabled the elder man to put food in his children’s bellies, shoes on their feet and clothed them with a warm home. It’s a sad day when these things happen and we own governments and educators by their pay that are governing from the same platforms around the world. We don’t need craftsmen and women any more, we need technicians and engineers on computers to send schematics around the world to be made cheaply. We are powerfully global now. It’s a global economy. Don’t keep your head in the clouds with the dinosaurs. Come down from loftiness and get real, they say to me and others who would like to live their lives differently. Is there an alternative?
Can care change something and how does care manifest itself most? I took the saw and abraded away the enemy in rust that covered the plate on both sides. It’s tough to take the abrasive paper on the first stokes, mentally I mean, but then the steel starts to show through the red rust. It takes steady care not to abrade wrongly, go against the grain, create ugly patterns. I worked more and all the more as the steel began to shine again.
More neglect shows in the plate and the steel was damaged. I took a hammer and placed the plate on the second hammer face as an anvil. The steel resisted and seemed to reject my work for a minute or two. It worsened but then yielded as I adjusted my taps to manipulate the steel and move the steel toward the direction I felt change the shape. The plate rewarded my eye cast along the edge. Straightness came back and the work seemed good to me.
The brass too seemed overly dull. It doesn’t really need to shine but it does need to feel and look at least cared for. I used a finer abrasive to skim off the surface and penetrate to pure brass without stain and oxidation. A name emerged with each stroke and I felt an affection developing. In some ways the saws I have were each one orphaned. In a world where tools have lost their meaning I gather them and ask how it’s possible that I live in a culture that in many ways seems to have a love hate relationship with hand tools. Some people despise hand tools and workshops and working men and women who use or used them and in other ways some see them as somehow worth saving in the using of them.
I received a plane from eBay last week that was sharp and the seller sent me a note saying he appreciated what I’d done for the woodworking world via YouTube and the blog and the filming we do through the film makers. Before I read the note I noticed that the plane blade had a convex camber and the corners removed in like manner to my own. Then I saw why. The plane was a Woden I wanted to upgrade parts on one I have. I have a longer iron but a broken sole.Uniting the two will give me a good plane. Waiting for another Woden sole will give me another plane.
I love the thought that things unloved and lost become found and restored, renewed and then used and cared for. Who can explain such a thing. The dirt and grime in a plastic box of near discardment in used up oil and grease, dust and dead things past. You lift it from the wasted and place it in rough hands and then the hope starts working. The rust abrades your fingers and the handle has an unkempt feel of rough, wet-raised grain to it and you say to yourself, “Can this thing be loved again?” “Made-up”, we say in the UK, when we feel happy and successful? Can this saw feel ‘made up’? Something says “put it back, it’s not worth the effort”, but I can’t really. Not once I picked it up in so helpless and useless a state.
I look into the future now instead of the past and the wood this saw will cut to shape; dovetails and housing dadoes and much more. I think of the energy of exactness hand work has using hand tools and then I think of the excesses of machines that so exhaust into our world. How a bandsaw spins a million tooth-cuts per minute to my thousand before we switch off its motor. I never use less or more than a fraction of a stroke in waste and so I feel that feeling of settledness and wellbeing others rarely understand. Imagine this saw when tomorrow I reshape each tooth and size them to task. Set them and refine them after 60 years of isolation and neglect. The man who placed it away in his tool box; the craftsman that wore the handle to shape and once kept it free from rust and decay for decades. The one who loved it and never abused it will never know I retrieved it from the world of throwaway now, but when I am gone my work will live on in the lives of thousands upon thousands of woodworkers who understand what I am saying today.
Steps to recovery and restoration necessitated a little work on the handle but no reshaping. One of the loveliest handles.
Here is the newly cared for amongst others.
Rarer Finds Come Home Too
This chisel was described as a floor board chisel. It’s really not that. It’s a sash pocket chisel actually. I own one of these in the USA tools I have but this one came up via eBay. I bought it for little enough and will use it from time to time. Sash pockets are removable sections in each side of sliding sash windows. These pockets house the cast iron weights that work as counterweights to the sliding sashes and makes them liftable. Sometimes the sash snaps and the weights lie in the bottom of the casing. The sash rope (called a sash knot) needs to be retied. I suppose the seller used it for another common use, which was splitting tongues of floorboards so that the board can be lifted to access pipes and wires beneath. Little misnomer really.
John found this tiny boxwood spokeshave that’s quite a scarcity these days, which was again via eBay. Both the sash-pocket chisel and the spokeshave are made by our once famed British Marples of old. Searching ebay can be tedious but when you know what to look for you can make inexpensive forays into realms of tool collecting that at one time we had to travel many miles to and stand for many hours at to bid on when people around you were outbidding according to the look of determination on another’s face. John did buy a glut of chisels over the past few weeks, so if there’s a chisel shortage we can blame him. He tends to collect the mixed unsets. On average he spends under two pounds a piece including shipping.
Anyone UK side know where I can buy one of these older brass wire brushes. This one has the tightest clumps of bristles that never bend and I rely on it so much.
Please let me know if you have one spare for sale.