Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back To The . . . Whatever.

By most people's definitions, my wife and I are both trained artists. Our relationship started in the art room of what used to be, a progressive looking high school that paid a lot of attention to art and technology classes. (Sadly I know this is not the case any longer) Together and apart, we've taken more formal "art" classes than most people who graduate with an "art" major. 

It seeps into my woodworking some, but truthfully neither of us have made much use of this training other than raising our girls. We've consciously tried to bring them up to be imaginative creators and makers with pragmatic roots. There is a lot of drawing, painting, and sewing that goes on in my home. The sense of this has ramped up recently as I've been more visibly drawing myself Sitting at the drafting table, doing illustrations of joinery and other concepts to accompany the book I'm working on. 

You can read more about it HERE

My activity has seemed to spur more drawing activity by the girls, and some light arguing about who gets to use the Drawing Board. Our portable drawing board is 24" x 30" edge glued maple boards with oaken breadboard ends and a handle screwed to one side. It's a holdover from our art room days and we only have the one. One board and three daughters is problematic. 

The old soldier drawing board. It's been around a while.
Two of the three girls had birthdays coming up, we purchased new sketchbooks, drawing pencils, and kneaded erasers and I built some new drawing boards. One for each, including the non birthday girl. 

I picked up a section of 1/2" sanded plywood from the box store. Searching through the pile I actually found a show face that had a some curly figure to the grain. Back at the shop I cut the ply into three blanks 17 1/2" x 11 1/2", then I used the table saw to cut 1/4" x 1/2" rabbets all around the border. 


I ripped down some 1" thick black walnut into 1 1/4" wide pieces. planed them flat and smooth and plowed grooves to accept the lip of the plywood'e rabbet. 


I mitered and fitted the walnut into frames around the plywood. glue into the plowed grooves and some finishing brads to hold the frames in place. 


You may wonder why I used 1" thick frames and 1/2" ply. In essence the rabbet acts as a bare faced tenon and provides more strength to the joint, but it also leaves a slightly less than 1/2" recess in the back of the boards. With a couple of wide rubber bands,(a common accessory to drawing boards) they can easily place a sketchbook and maybe a tin of pencils in the recess and carry the whole thing by the handle where ever they want. 


I finished the boards with danish oil and a light furniture polishing wax and added a single screen door handle to one side. 

A fun little weekend style project that my girls will use for many years. How much better does it get. 

Just one more decent sized shop distraction to handle and I can get back to the medieval furniture I've immersed myself in lately. 

Ratione et Passionis.
Oldwolf

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Spooned To Distraction.

I could have a hundred things to work on in the shop, deadlines hanging over my head (self imposed and otherwise) and none of that will matter when I find the right distraction. For the last few weeks it's been spoons.

When I went out to the woods with some friends a couple weekends ago and came back with half a cherry log hewn down for a bench, I brought two quarters of the end of that log about 18" long home as well. I told the guys I was gonna make spoons. 

Then I had an event last weekend I was supposed to demo carving at, but I didn't have the time or space to prep and load my carving set up. So I punted, rived a couple blanks from one of the cherry quarters, and packed what I needed to carve spoons. 

I haven't done a lot of spoon making in the past. One sucess and several failed attempts. But it is a lot of fun in a challenging in a very immediate "workmanship of risk" kind of way, but it's also relaxing and somewhat social way of working.  

When I'm working in my shop, most of the time it's a solitary endeavor. Last night instead of being alone in the shop I sat with my family in the living room, carved on a spoon blank I'd started earlier that day, and watched a movie. 

A little bit revolutionary.












I'm still finding my feet and getting a feel for it. I've joined a couple spoon carving. / green woodworking groups on Facebook to get a feel for how others work and what their stuff looks like. 

This morning I rived a dozen more cherry blanks. I'm going to quickly rough them out and keep them and a couple tools in a box by my chair, in the living room. Now I'll have something to do with my hands in the evening. 

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hewing Day

I received an email from a friend earlier this month. Tom Latane was interested in gathering a small group of like-minded folks to spend a day hewing wood with adzes. How do you say no to that?

So two weeks ago, on a cloudy, slightly stormy Saturday morning I gathered a couple axes, wedges, and a thermos of coffee and drove to Tom's shop in Pepin Wisconsin and met the two other gentlemen who decided to join us that day. From there it was a quick drive to the small parcel of woods Tom owns outside the town.


We started by busting apart a cherry log for a couple of us to share. I always fin this to be great fun and super satisfying. Then we all got to work with adzes, each on our own individual logs.


I've never found an adze in what I considered good enough shape to buy it so I had no real experience using one. The concept of swinging a horizontal axe blade in the vicinity of your lower legs and feet flies in the face of the modern, child-proof bottle cap, safety-litigation-congregation's standards. But like anything you have to be smart and keep your head in the game. Pay attention to what's safe and what's not as you're working, think through your actions before you take a swing, and you're fine.

The nice thing is the other guys all brought a nice variety of adze styles along and I took a bit of time with all of them, getting a feel for what I liked and didn't.


While the three of us worked, flattening slabs for benches. Tom worked hewing round logs square for timber framing.


It rained on and off at times, which was refreshing though we didn't get very wet at all under the heavy tree canopy.


When the day was finished I had a new blister and a cherry slab about 3" thick 15" wide on the top side, and a little over 3' long. We all loaded up and took off. The next day I was exhausted, with sore muscles I'd long forgotten I owned, but I still managed to waddle out to the shop and work on the slab some more.

I started by planing the bottom completely flat. I use metal bodied Stanley planes in most of my work, but I find for green work like this, a wooden body plane is superior in feel and function.


With the bottom set, I ran a marking gauge over the ends and snapped some chalk lines to get a uniform thickness to the top. The slab is giving me about 2 1/2". I took a hewing axe and brought the thickness down close, then planed some of the roughness away. I didn't bother getting carried away because I want to give the seat a dish out, like a Windsor chair seat.


I did some dishing, then set the slab aside. I have lots of other work and can't eat the distraction for more than a weekend right now and the slab needs to season a little before I work it some more. I have these visions in my mind of a cross between a Windsor and a Norwegian Sengebenk.

We'll see how that works out.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If I Were a Joiner . . .

Peter Follansbee, an artisan I distinctly look up to and respect, has decided to leave his job as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation. It's sad to me that I will never get the chance to see him in action there. It's exciting to me to think this means he will be teaching more classes and I will have an increased chance to attend one.

The fact that Peter is leaving isn't news. There are rumors that Plimoth Plantation didn't plan to replace him, Chris wrote about this in a post on his blog, but down at the bottom of the comments in that post is a comment by a Sarah MacDonald, that states the organization is updating the job description and expanding the diversity of its craftspeople. (There is no updated job posting for a joiner as of today)

This all gives me pause for thought. What if I were to be hired for the job? I certainly would meet some of the qualifications

I have spent several years developing competency with hand tools in woodworking in general and with working freshly riven, green wood more recently. I can take a fallen tree and turn it into a finished piece of furniture.

I have developed a love for the furniture and construction styles of the 17th century. I have been working on the carving aspect of the craft for several years and it's a very comfortable, natural style for me now.

My most recent carved interpretation. Walnut carved box sides. I haven't finished the till, lid, or bottom yet. 
I have some decent experience demonstrating in front of crowds, often under the guise of medieval historical reenactment. I have demoed for rowdy crowds at medieval faires and festivals, and for fundraising events at libraries and museums.


And I have experience as an lecturer and educator, I spent two years teaching Surgical Technology and Central Service Technology at Western Technical College, before deciding to return to the field. And my work has been published in a major woodworking publication.

Ok . . .  so do I have the job?

Several things will keep me from even applying if the job is posted. Not the least of which is the need to relocate. It is definitely not the right time in our lives to take on another adventure like that. Not for a while.

But the job is still fun to think about, like the "What would I do if I won the lottery?" question. Though the approach that comes across my mind is "What would I do differently?"

Peter is am inspiration to me, I've never managed to come up with a good reason to correspond with him outside of the abject hero workshop and fawning praise of an unapologetic fan boy. But if I were to trip, fall, and land in the job, I would want to make it my own. Standing on the shoulders of giants to see further is more noble than repeating what has been done before in a cookie cutter fashion.

I would certainly have a lot to learn in the job, that would be most of the fun.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Change The World



"The mere act of owning real tools and having the power to use them is a radical and rare idea that can help change the world around us and - if we are persistent - preserve the craft."
Chris Schwarz - The Anarchist's Tool Chest

I have the most amazing woman in the world supporting me. My wife Naomi listens patiently to all my hair brained ideas and ramblings as I piece things together. I understand it can't be easy to put up with me everyday, yet for almost twenty years she has done it with a smile, well, most of the time there's a smile. I was worried my next idea may just push her over the edge into the "not smiling anymore" zone. 

As I worked on the first draft of the chapter on the Maciejowski Bible Footstool, I came across a problem. I needed a way to succinctly show the basics of woodworking joints without getting into a dissertation on them. I decided to create an appendix in the book, something of a brief "Gray's Anatomy of Joinery" section. So I could refer to the page when talking about the cheeks of a tenon, without getting bogged down in explaining in text. 

There are several options to showcase joints, but hand drawing them appealed to me the most. There were other ideas I wanted to have hand drawn for the book as well. Issue being, there was no great place to do this kind of work in our small house. We have a small dining room table, but it's neither comfortable to work at, nor is the flat surface ever free from the clutter of a five person household that includes three teenagers. 

So I proposed an idea to my wife, unsure whether she'd agree or not. I asked to empty out our dining room area and bring in my Father-In-Law's drafting table which he's had in storage for quite a while. 


She didn't even hesitate to say yes.

I cleaned out the area and retrieved the table last weekend and the last few days I've been spending a few hours a day stretching muscles I haven't worked in nearly 20 years. I regularly sketch ideas for furniture and I've made measured drawings, but I haven't done anything I'd consider "real" drawing since the days of drowning myself in art classes. 

The muscles are there, the refinement is returning, and I'm having fun renewing a skill I have not worked on since I was young enough to take it for granted. 


They're not worthy of a gallery, but they'll get the job done. 

Thank you Naomi. 

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Saturday, June 28, 2014

To Build A Nest: Specialty Saws

Today I finish up a short series on a Nest of Saws. Using my own nest as an example of creating a small collection of multitaskers to handle all the work you need. As I've said before, woodworking is a individual pursuit and your own mileage may vary. There will be links to the other posts in the series at the end.

We've spoken about hand saws and back saws, now we break down into the few specialty saws I keep sharp and ready.

I suppose a miter box saw can be considered alongside the back saws, but since it rarely sees use outside the miter box I'm going to call it a specialty.


My Miter box saw is a Disston saw made for Goodell Pratt. It's 26" long with 11 PPI (Points Per Inch) and filed with 15 degrees of rake and 20 degrees of fleam. It has a deep plate (5 inches) and works nicely in my Stanely Miter Box. You can see the rehab of both miter box and saw HERE.

Next is my cheepo coping saw. Nicholson brand I believe. I picked it up off a clearance rack at a box store a few years ago, and it's been a good friend ever since.


I use it for scrolling and for sawing out the waste in my dovetails. The tension on the original was never great so I souped it up by throwing a couple of washers between the handle and the frame. I've also sanded the smooth factory finish off the handle.


The weird thing is, I've managed to get my hands on a Knew Concepts Fret Saw I thought would replace this old war bird, but I just never liked it. I like the beefier coping saw blades over the wire fret saw blades and the Knew Concepts saw handle just never fit or felt right in use. I like the engineering that goes into making the frame stiff and light and the whole concept, I just couldn't efficiently use it.

So, until something comes along to replace it, my old coping saw will remain in the tool box.

Oh, if you were wondering, I usually set my coping saw blades to cut on the pull stroke.


I consider my stair saws to be one of the few conceits in my nest. They are not multitaskers, they do one job, something that can be done with a carcass saw. Cut a sidewall for a dado or rabbet. But they do it so well and efficiently and they look so cool. . .  what can I say, a guy should be allowed a little conceit.

I have two (more conceit)  The one on the right is an unmarked vintage model (I believe it's Disston though). The blade is 7 PPI and crosscut. I've had it for a few years and I just haven't gotten around to cleaning it up and sharpening it, probably because the one on the left works well when I need it.

Before I found the vintage one I was captured by the concept of the saw and decided to build one for myself from scratch and a picture I got off the internet. You can read the old post HERE. My blade recut from an old saw plate comes to 6 PPI

Stair saws are a great addition to your nest. Vintage ones are tough to come by so I suggest heading over to Two Guys In A Garage website, where they offer kits to build your own. I keep threatening to buy one myself.

The last specialty saw I keep in my woodworking tool box is a hacksaw. If you're following links in this post you'll read some nasty things I had to say about hacksaws when I was writing about building a stair saw. What can I say, I was having a day.


It's kind of weird to mention it along with woodworking tools, but it's just the ticket for modifying hardware, sawing brass pins to length and other small metal working jobs that pop up. Find a simple one that tensions well and don't be scared to replace the blade often.

Photo from Tools For Working Wood website. 

The final specialty saw isn't in my tool box yet. It's going to be a veneer saw. My current project has pushed back my exploration into veneer, marquetry, and inlay for now but when the clock circles around again I will be in the market again. When that happens I will most likely head over to Tools For Working Wood and pick up a Gramercy Veneer Saw.

That wraps up my thoughts on the saws I have. use, and will get and the concept of trying to get the most out of a few good saws rather than filling a whole saw till with special circumstance saws.

The introduction to the saw nest series is HERE.
Hand saws in my nest are HERE
Backsaws in my nest are HERE
and ALL the posts are collected together in one HERE.

Now it will probably be a while before I put any real thought into my saws again. Of course if they're working for you, you don't have to think about them.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Friday, June 20, 2014

I'll Never See This For The First Time Again.


You only get a handful of firsts in your lifetime. First car, first kiss, first time on an airplane, first time in a fist fight. Some are bittersweet, all are learning experiences. Today the mailman brought another first into my life. A large white envelope containing two author copies of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Today was the first time I got to see my name in print, legitimately published.


This one article may have been one of the hardest things I've ever had to write. Not because of the demands of the PopWood team, Megan Fitzpatrick and Glen Huey were both great to work with. It has more to do with the demands I put on myself. I worked and worried the thing to near death.

The one thing that I really wasn't expecting was the amount of time from the start to today. The concept of building my own copy of Roubo's Press Vise occurred to me in early October of last year. I built a prototype in a long Saturday in the shop. No thoughts or worries about perfection, or what someone would think about seeing it beyond the normal noodling here on my blog space.

Then the ideas began to grow, and I received support for those ideas from great people. I have to offer a big Thank You to Don Williams. A man I've gotten to know a bit over the last few years and I hope to get to know better as time rolls on. The first thing I did was send him an email asking for his blessing at taking a small bite of something he's very invested in. He was kind enough to say yes.


The project itself, delightful simplicity, to such a level that it made me slap my forehead that I didn't think about it on my own. I challenge you to give the project a try for yourself, the possibilities inside this devise are nearly endless. And if you decide to pick up your own copy of the magazine and see my "first" for yourself, then all the better.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf