Tuesday, November 10, 2009
First, I attended the second Woodworking in America conference in St. Charles, Illinois, in August. That was a great conference and I learned a lot about furniture design. I had intended to write about individual sessions and speakers, but the time for that has long since passed, so for the most part I will have to be content with saying that it was a great conference and I am glad I attended. I did purchase several tools while there, the most important of which was the Veritas bevel-up smoothing plane. I've had just a little time to use it and it is a fine tool. I was also very impressed with Jeff Headley's Winchester desk, which he brought disassembled and put together during his presentation. I was so impressed, in fact, that I will be taking a class with Jeff next June and July to build one, along with three other friends from the Washington Woodworker's Guild.
Second, I took a part-time job with the Woodcraft store in Springfield, Virginia. I had never before done retail sales until I helped out with a Lie-Nielsen event last June. I discovered that I love working with customers (and tools, of course). I love this new job, despite the fact that it takes me away from woodworking and cuts into my free time for things like blogging. And I also like the employee discounts, which so far have greatly exceeded my meager wages.
Third, I bought a lathe two weeks ago, the Nova 1624-44. It is large enough to do bowls, which I hope to do eventually. But in the short term I will be making pens. I've always had a passion for pens (fountain pens, that is). Now I can combine that passion with my passion for wood and working with it. I'll be writing more about that in future entries.
Finally, I'm very involved with a men's organization called The Mankind Project, also known as New Warriors, which helps men get in touch with authentic masculinity. I'm an officer, trainer and newsletter editor for the Greater Washington group, which takes up a good deal of my time.
So there you have it, some of the reasons I have been absent from this space lately. I hope to be more regular in the future.
Friday, July 31, 2009
The biggest concerns were to avoid tearout and to minimize snipe. The reason I took such thin cuts (1/32 inch) was to hold tearout to a minimum. Snipe is another matter. I set up a roller stand to supplement the small outfeed table on the planer. While this took care of most of the problem, I still grasped each board as it emerged from the planer to hold it as level as possible. This nearly eliminated snipe on all boards.
It is fortunate that I planed a number of extra pieces. Some will be used for jigs, some for test pieces during setup of the router bit and some for extras to take care of any mistakes that occur. In addition, though, I found hidden knots and other anomalies in some of the boards that only emerged as they were planed. Thus, some of the extras will go to replace boards that now appear to be unusable as leg stock.
A word about my planer, shown in the photo. It is the entry level Sears Craftsman planer, a 12-1/2 inch planer with only two blades. Although I will probably replace it sometime, it does a very creditable job and I regard it as a good purchase when I was setting up my shop last year. I cannot see any defects in the quality of the planing it produces and the resulting surfaces are smooth, which is all I can ask of it.
Now that the planing is done, I will select which boards to use for leg stock and which for jigs, etc., and rip them to width. Then I'll be ready to make the jigs I need and to rout the edges of the leg stock, prior to gluing up.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Awhile back, I bought a supply of quartersawn white oak to use for the table. Now I am ready to start cutting and dimensioning the lumber into actual parts. The photo shows the stock that will make up the legs. Clearly, this 4/4 stock is not thick enough for the legs, which will be 1-1/2 inches square. So instead of cutting four legs from thicker stock, I'll be cutting 16 pieces to make up four faces for each leg. These pieces will be routed on each end using a lock miter bit so that when assembled four pieces will lock together into a single leg. The advantage of doing this is that the legs will also show quartersawn oak on all faces, making them much more attractive than if I had used a single board for each leg.
I've already jointed the boards in the photo. Next step is to plane them to 3/4 inches thick and make the two jigs I'll need to rout the edges. I'll plane that wood at the same time so the boards in the jig are identical in thickness to the leg pieces. I hope to have the planing done by the end of the week.
I will chronicle this project, the first of my own design, step by step in this space.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
The reproduction chairs, as is the case of the original, were handcrafted from curly or tiger maple. The finish of the original is not entirely certain since the existing example has been refinished, but the reproductions are probably close in appearance. The maple was treated with two coats of aniline dye to deepen the color and bring out the figure in the wood. This was followed by seven coats of varnish wiped on to create a solid yet low sheen finish.
The photos show the reproduction chairs, which will be given to my wife Betsy's children and her other family members.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The hour-long production is divided into three parts. The first segment emphasizes the importance of learning to see proportions and design elements in furniture and architecture. Though beautiful and interesting, this is merely an introduction to the real meat of the program, which comes in the second and third parts.
The second part, which addresses the use of proportions in design, makes up the gist of the presentation. The key message I took from it is that most traditional design, in both furniture and architecture, makes use of simple, whole-number ratios of one design element to another. Using a drawing of a 18th Century Philadelphia chest as an example, Walker breaks down the design into a series of squares and rectangles and then shows how the elements of the chest are simple proportions of each other. Through the use of highly effective communication aids, he illustrates how the proportions can be used to establish symmetry, contrast and punctuation in designed pieces.
Armed with an understanding of how simple proportions can be employed in design, Walker turns in the third segment to application of these princples to furniture design . He draws plans for a simple chest, half of it in traditional form, the other half contemporary, with both halves based on the same design elements. As he does so, he shows how to create simple tools to help in applying various proportions to drawings of furniture designs.
For anyone interested in learning fundamentals of good furniture design, this DVD is well worth the $25 purchase price. It is professionally produced and Walker communicates in an articulate and easy-to-follow manner. The program will find immediate application in my own work developing the proportions for the mission-style table I am preparing to build. I highly recommend this DVD.
Next on my list is to get the wood into the basement and sticker it (separate the boards with slips of wood to help it acclimate to my basement's humidity level). Then, while I'm waiting for it to acclimate, I will develop detailed drawings of the table which will enable me to select and cut the boards to rough length before jointing and planing. And that means taking the time to learn more about Sketchup, the free computer-aided design (CAD) program provided by Google. Sketchup has the potential to eliminate some of the tedium of making drawings by hand and produce scale plans that can be used in actual construction. Learning to use it is one of my goals for the year.
More on the table later as I progress in building it.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
It wasn't idled for lack of need. As the photo shows, my machines were turning out sawdust piles that were making it hard to move around safely. It also shows some of the tubing I acquired to help solve the problem.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I tried several techniques before I got it right. First, I used my Wixey electronic digital protractor to try and measure to the angle to the blade. This proved to be highly inaccurate, given that the blade was leaning at the necessary 45-degree angle to the base. Then I tried cutting boards to measure the resulting angle by trial and error. At first I used a narrow board but found that too inaccurate also. Finally, I used a 5-inch wide board and after many tries was able to get the fence adjusted spot on to 90-degrees.
The plan now is to make tissue box covers using some highly figured quartersawn sycamore I was able to get hold of. That'll be the test of just how accurate the fence really is. The good news is that I can always make more adjustments if I need to.
Before I start on that, I want to hook up my dust collection system, now that my hoses and connectors have come in. But who knows, I may not be able to contain myself from building an actual project before I get that done!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Be that as it may, I have already found chisels handy enough (OK, essential) that I broke down and bought a set. I didn't pop for an expensive set but instead caught Woodcraft's Wood River brand when it was on sale. What I didn't count on was the fact that while they are not exactly dull when they arrive, they do need a basic sharpening to make them really useful.
The first thing I did was purchase a basic grinder, which is needed to shape the front of the blade. But after asking my friend Jeff Fleisher how to sharpen them properly, he put me on to an article about David Charlesworth's method. Finally, today I drove out to his shop in New Market, Virginia, and he helped me sharpen the first chisel so I could see and experience the process for myself.
The process is fairly straightforward, if a little tedious when doing it for the first time. Charlesworth's method calls for a series of Japanese waterstones. You first flatten the back (flat) side of the chisel to remove all the tooling marks as it comes from the factory. This involves working the back of the chisel up and down and then back and forth on either a 200 grit stone or wet or dry sandpaper laid wet on a sheet of glass. When the factory marks have been removed, only slight scratches from the stone or sandpaper should remain. You then move to a 1200 grit stone that has been wetted and repeat the procedure, working from there to a 4000 grit stone and finally an 8000 grit stone on which a slurry has been made with a nagura stone. By the time this has been done, few if any scratches should remain and the back of the chisel should be both flat and scratch free.
The next step is to work on the beveled side of the chisel blade. Here you turn to the fine wheel on a slow grinder. You mark the beveled edge with a Sharpie, then grind away the marked metal, holding the chisel at precisely 90 degrees to the wheel. When all the marking has been ground away, you should have a slightly concave surface on the bevel.
The final stage is to put a fine edge on the chisel. This is done on the 8000 grit stone using a device that holds the chisel blade at 30 degrees to the stone. Five or six pulls is all that is needed. Then you increase the angle slightly and repeat the process, again five or six times. All that's left now is to check and see if there's a burr on the flat side of the chisel and, if so, remove it by pulling the blade across the stone a few times.
The finished blade should be able to cut the top of your fingernail when gently pushed against it or should be able to shave a piece of soft wood like pine smoothly and cleanly.
So, I now have one sharp chisel. And a lot of work to do to get the rest of them ready for real use. The good news is, once the backs are flattened (the slow part of the process), I should not need to do more than touch up the bevels for a long time to come!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
It was then that I turned my attention to my band saw and discovered that although I need 7 inch stock to resaw for the boxes, my saw will only accommodate 6 inches. So I got on line with Grizzly, the maker of my band saw, and ordered a riser kit for my saw. That will give me 12 inches of resaw capability. Now I'll have to get a new 105 inch saw blade to replace the Wood Slicer resaw blade I've never even used. I hope Highland Woodworking will take an exchange on it.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Using it is fairly simple. Once a box has been assembled, I'll clamp a stop block to the jig so the cuts will be made where I want them, then make the cuts, turning the box so that all four corners get identical cuts. I'll use a rip blade to make the cuts so the bottom of each cut is at 90 degrees to the edge. After the cuts have been made, all that remains is to insert splines of a contrasting color into the cuts and trim them off with a chisel, plane and sander.
The completed boxes will be my holiday presents for this year. And, if they turn out well, I may even try to sell some.
Next week, if it doesn't rain, I'll go back for a load of quartersawn white oak for an Arts and Crafts style cabinet I'll be making to hold my photo CDs. I know I'll find what I need there. And, it's a good place to get lumber. Since there is no middleman, Rick is able to underprice the other lumber yards by as much as 30 percent. And that's a good deal!
Thursday, February 26, 2009
We began with rough 4/4 (1 inch) cherry boards that had been run through the jointer one time to help them acclimate to the humidity at which we would be working. We started by deciding which sections of the boards to use and marking them up. Then we cut them to length before running them through the jointer to get one smooth side. After that, we ran our boards through the planer to smooth the second side and reduce the width to 3/4 inch. Finally, we cut our boards to proper width by ripping them on the table saw.
As soon as we could, we glued up three boards side by side to make the table top. We then set these aside to dry overnight.
Next we moved on to the legs. These were made from 8/4 (i.e., 2 inch) boards cut into 2X2 widths. We marked up the ends of the boards so the grain would run at a 45 degree angle so it would approximate being rift sawn. The reason for this is so the grain would run straight along the length of the leg and also to add strength. In some cases, this required us to cut the legs lengthwise on a band saw with the table angled in order to achieve the desired angle of the grain. Once we had one edge cut to the proper angle, we jointed that edge, then rip cut the other edges on the table saw until the legs were square.
The legs are tapered on the two inner edges to give the table a lighter appearance. To taper them, we used a jig that Jeff provided. The jig held the legs at an angle so we could run them through the table saw at the proper angle.
Once all the parts were cut to final dimensions, we moved on to joinery. The method used was mortise and tenon. We used a mortising machine to cut the mortises on two sides of each leg, then cut the tenons on the apron pieces using a dado blade in the table saw. This is only one of several methods of making tenons, but it was easy and worked quite well. I will adopt this method at home, now that I've done it. It makes me wish I hadn't recently purchased a tenoning jig; I'll have to find a way to sell it to get my money back. After cutting the mortises and tenons, we cleaned out rough areas in the mortises with a chisel and trimmed the tenons with Jeff's Veritas shoulder plane until they fit snugly together. Then we sanded the parts and glued the legs to the aprons, completing the table assembly.
Next we turned our attention to the table top. Any unevenness was smoothed off using a scraper. This worked well to get rid of glue squeezeout, but I found it really hard on my arthritic thumbs and I was unable to do as much of it as the project needed. I eventually finished the job at home using a random orbit sander. The final stages of construction were to cut the table top to 18 inches square on the table saw, then by standing it on end using a special tall fence, we cut 2 inch bevels on the bottom of the tabletop which has the effect of making the table appear lighter, a nice effect.
The final step was to sand the top and attach it to the frame, which was done using figure 8 hardware.
We did not have time to put a coat of finish on the table so this will be done at home. I'll use the recommended oil-based sealer, followed up with four to five coats of an oil-urethane top coat. I hope to have the finishing done within the next week.
This was a really nice project. The table is lovely. But more important to me is all the knowledge I gained about furniture construction. I learned a lot, some from doing things right, some from mistakes I won't have to make a second time. Now I feel I'm ready to start designing and building my own furniture. Thanks, Jeff.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I started with some rough soft maple and walnut and jointed and planed them smooth. Then I cut the maple into three short pieces and glued them together in a stack. This became the stock for the head of the mallet. While this was drying, I cut the handle from a larger piece of walnut. I cut the tenon on the walnut on the band saw with no difficulty. Then I cut the handle to shape to fit my hand and ran the whole piece through the router table using a roundover bit to ease the edges.
When the glue had dried on the maple, I cut the stack to final shape on the band saw. Then, I made the mortise on the mortising machine. I cleaned out the mortise with a chisel until the handle tenon fit tightly into the mortise. Finally, I glued the two pieces together. And the project was done! I now have a sturdy and, I think, attractive mallet that should give me good service.
Could I have done anything differently? Definitely. My chisel was not sharp enough and I did a lot of unnecessary work paring out the mortise. I cut the thick stack of maple with a 3/8" band saw blade; a 1/2" blade made for resawing would have cut better, I think. And, I might have improved the looks by sandwiching some walnut in between the maple boards (or vise versa) to create a more patterned look. But, hey, it was all about getting practice with my machines and developing a sense of accomplishment. And that I got.
Friday, January 16, 2009
I wanted to make them all out of 1/2" Baltic plywood, which because it is 9-ply is very stable and smooth. I decided I would be using a lot of this over the coming months and planned to get two 60"X60" sheets (which is the way it comes). I also needed some 1/4" hardboard for the top and bottom facings for the drill press table so planned to get a 4'X8' sheet of that. And just for good measure, I ordered a 4'X8' sheet of 1/8" plywood that I could cut into patterns for later use in cutting various shapes.
Fortunately, Heritage Hardwoods is located only about 5 miles from me and they either stock or were able to order in all these items for me. Unfortunately, after waiting through nearly a week of rainy weather for a dry day to pick up my wood, it turned out to be bitterly cold and very windy the day I drove to Heritage Hardwoods. I got my wood alright, but my hands were frozen stiff by the time I had tied the sheets on the top of my car. And in the high, gusty winds, I think I was lucky to get home with my wood intact despite limiting my speed to 25 mph.
The other thing I needed was material for runners that would run in the miter slots of the table saw. I've viewed a DVD with instructions on how to make runners out of straight-grained hardwood, but decided to use UHMW, a slick kind of plastic that comes in the right width for the miter slots (3/4") and can be ripped to the correct depth. I ordered that from Woodcraft.
Finally, I needed some miter slots, T-bolts and screw handles for my drill press table. I also got these from Woodcraft.
So now I'm ready to dive in and make those jigs! I'll report on how that goes once I get into it.