A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

HANDWORKS 2015 - Now you have my attention...

I have been attending Woodworking in America (WIA) the last few years, which for several years was held in Cincinnati and last year in Winston-Salem. If you wanted to shake hands and chat with the top North American hand tool builders that was the place to go. However, in the past few years more and more of the best have been staying away from WIA, and in my view the value of attending WIA is diminishing. Its a great woodworking show, but not if hand tools are your main interest.

Enter Handworks... 

...in 2013 the first incarnation of a Hand Tool only gathering was held in the historic Amana Colonies near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. By all accounts it was a huge success and as a result is coming back as a biannual event this year. In all likelihood, at the expense of WIA, I am heading to the Midwest this weekend; like the hand tool lemming that I am, to see many of the players who have abandoned WIA. Some I will be meeting for the first time.

Studley Toolchest
There are also a few fellow online bloggers and acquaintances that I will be meeting for the first time, which is always a fun experience.

I have one woodworking poster in my shop and have had it as long as I have had a shop (over 25 years). The picture is of the Studley tool-chest which woodworkers refer to in revered tones. This tool-chest and the bench that goes with it will be on a very rare public display at Handworks 2015 and I have my ticket to see it.

A new book on the tool-chest has just been published and I expect that I will have to grab a copy. For me this artifact has provided much inspiration over the years, I am glad I am finally getting the chance to see it in person.

My sense is that this event is somewhat similar to the European Woodworking Biannual show held in Essex, in the South of England in September. Right now my plan is to also attend this weekend event which is held inside a  12th century wooden barn - yea 12th century!! I live in a province that was the first settlement of Europeans in North America only 410 years ago - we have something to learn about old stuff here!!

Looking forward to the trip and the chance to catch up with some friends; and perhaps make few new ones.



Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Workbench for the ages complete!

Original bench built in 1991.
This project started out as an assembly table, and as with many things, took on a life of its own. I needed a larger surface to build things on. My existing bench has a tool well along the back which limited the top surface to about 17" wide. It was tough to clamp up a chair without one of the legs dropping off the edge. This bench has served me well for almost 25 years, and is not going far, just down the aisle.

Lots of Planning

Of course I built a model!
The old bench is 32" high, which is the right height for many things, such as planing, however, as I increase the amount of handwork I do (and find it harder to bend over), a little higher is called for. I increased the height to 34" on the new bench and increased the size of the top to the maximum I could accommodate in the shop. This top is approx. 28" x 79" which provides lots of real estate. I have been using the top of the bench for the past couple of months while I built the cabinet and appreciate the space and height as I hoped I would.

Back Edge Ideal for clamping
I did not worry too much about the style of the bench, German, Scandinavian, French, I designed it to meet my needs first. It was always going to have a trestle base, nothing beats the simplicity and strength of this age-old design. Knowing I would be building a tool cabinet below reinforced this decision. As it was my intent to use this bench in a 360 degree environment for assembly, finishing and prep, I thought about making the back useful as well. My decision was to not put a skirt on the
back, but instead to leave the edge of the top exposed. I do quite a bit of lamination and this provides a nice long flat surface to register for these projects. It also makes clamping items to the bench much easier. I am constantly walking around using all sides of this bench, as I had hoped would be the case.

Leaving my mark
I expect this will be the last bench I ever build, so premium materials and hardware would be used throughout. The top is curly maple and the trim is Bubinga, all sourced from my local wood store that has been a pleasure to work with. I had them do some of the milling on the heavy materials, as well as stock prep to save me some time.

Veritas QR Face Vise

Face Vise gets a grip

I did not compromise on the vises, I have the Veritas Quick Release Face vise from Lee Valley on my existing bench and love how it functions. This is the third (and last) face vise for that bench and the best by far.

End Vise hold large pieces

Veritas Twin Screw Awesomeness
I wanted to be able to clamp large pieces, such as a table top, so an end vise was the choice and the  Veritas Twin Screw Vise was determined to be up to the job. Of course I went through much consternation regarding the dog holes; how many, spacing, round vs square. Eventually I went with 3 rows on 6" centers for 36" - I can always add more if necessary. Drilling plumb holes in the middle of a surface is a challenge, fortunately just before I got to this stage, Lee Valley (I love those guys) released their new dog hole alignment bushing which made the job idiot-proof :-).

Enough musing about this, it is just a bench after all and here's a few beauty shots before it gets covered in project detritus: (as always click on the photo for the high-res version)

Front View
Cabinet Detail with Smithy-style pulls

Back View

Detail of Bench and Cabinet

Gratuitous Tool Porn Shot

I recently received a new backsaw from Two Lawyers in Germany after years of waiting - but worth it...

Ebony Handle with brass back.

Back to the shop!!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Great things come to those who wait - Two Lawyers has returned

Over 3 years ago I ordered a nice backsaw from Two Lawyers saw makers in Germany and sat by the mailbox waiting for my saw. Well Klaus had some setbacks with wood allergies and when I think I had finally given up hope that I would be blessed to own one of their uniquely crafted handsaws - an email arrives today.

Seems Klaus has determined that he can work with Ebony and Olive - what luck for me, I ordered Ebony. Here's the pictures from Klaus of my new saw which is enroute - can't wait to get my hands on it...

Wish it was a little shinier....

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Bench Update - Bottom's up for the last time...

The finished inlay on the front skirt.
The last month has been a busy time between the UK and California, so I have not had a lot of time to work on the bench project, but it has reached a major milestone today. All the major woodworking is complete; with the end cap, front skirt and end-vise back plate all installed. I felt I should put a coat of finish on the bottom to seal it before I could not get access to it anymore.

View of underside from the back, this will be left open for clamping long materials, and cleaned up once it is flipped.

From the front, the cutout for the Lee valley Quick Release face vise,

Here's a few progress shots on how I got to here:

Inlaying the name plaque for the front

Traced the outline on some tape and the bulk of the material removed with a Forstner drill,
my Blue Spruce chisels and mallets clean up the straight edges and the carving tools for the rest.

After about an hour of fussing, and scared to death I would break it,
 the inlay dropped into place; a bit of bubinga sawdust to
hide my donkey tracks, CA glue to permanently fix it in place,
remove the tape, sand it flush and...

Bob's your uncle (not my uncle, but maybe yours!)

 Mounting the Lee Valley/Veritas Quick Release Face Vise

I have one of these guys on my original bench and and I love it, probably the most used fixture in the shop. I chose to relieve the front skirt to give me more open depth to the vise.

Doing some layout on the filler piece working out the arrangement of the holes.

The filler piece screwed and glued in place, with the rough cut front jaw prepped.
This will support the vise for years of trusty operation.

This was a beast to flip when the front skirt was installed, I will need major help in getting the topside up to finish installing the Twin-screw vise and fix it to the base. Wish me luck...

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Bench Project - Breakfast gives you a solid base for your day...

While other projects are more pressing, I am focussed on getting the bench done. Mostly because it takes up a lot of space in the shop and its tough to do other things with it in the way.

The bench will have a trestle base similar to my other workbenches and wall benches. This is efficient, strong and provides lots of space below for storage. I will be building a cabinet with drawers for the base later. Here's a few pics with progress to date.

Cleaning up the inlay for the vertical pieces for the base. Nice curl in this maple.

Laying out to cut some tenons to match the mortises in the horizontal pieces

All the parts laid out to glue up base and the Lee Valley order for all the vises.

Time for some flattening of the top before starting to add the skirts for the 3 sides.

The top flattened and rough sanded, sitting on the base, letting it settle in while the glue finally dries.

Detail shot of legs showing inlay and barrel bolts holding the cross pieces in place. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Bench Project Begins - This is not your Father's workbench...

The old reliable doing its job...
My main workbench in my shop was built in 1991 and has served me beyond well for every project I have built since then and has the scars to prove each one. There is nothing I would change on this bench as everything has its purpose. The plan was built from one of the early Woodsmith articles and is by most accounts it is the "traditional" European (German?) style bench.

I have however been running into some limitations with this baby, especially related to the surface area of the top. I have been building quite a few chairs and larger items and the flat working surface is limited by the well. So this project started out as possibly an assembly/outfeed table, but I really wanted to build myself a nice bench with a large working area and lots of options built in.

Of course you are building a Roubo, who isn't?

Quick sketch of the final product
Why me of course, I have not succumbed to the siren call of the avaricious modern day McGillicuddy promoting this as the only option one should consider. To me the traditional (this term is used advisedly) bench style is very flexible. This will be a wider top to serve as an assembly table with a few considerations for how it will be used.

The main field will be a 2.5" maple slab with a wider skirt on three sides. The "back" will be left open to provide an extended surface to clamp the many laminations that I do. The top will be ~28" wide x ~79" long and all Veritas hardware. There will be the quick release face vise similar to the one I have on my current bench and the end will be fitted with the Veritas twin-screw vise. The trestle base will hold a cabinet of drawers for my tools.

Flattening the top with my Sauer A1

The old bench is not going far, just down the aisle to replace the Sjobergs one I bought a few years ago, this will become the outfeed table for the saw. See where I am going with this...

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Copenhagen - With a Klint in my eye...

During the 1980’s furniture in the Danish Modern style was very popular, in fact there were a few dedicated stores selling every type of furniture piece in lovely teak or rosewood depending upon your preference. 

Our first dining room table was a teak Danish set with a pull-out top for extension. This table served us well until we invested in a nice antique native oak table refinished by friend of ours. We also had a nice low Danish teak TV stand with drawers and cabinet that served us well for many years and my Dad got lots more miles out of it when we were done with it. While Danish Modern was a trend in North America that has long since passed, it remains an ongoing trend in Denmark and the Danish design aesthetic is remarkably unchanged for most of the last 100 years. The most modern of materials are employed in the execution, however the look remains distinctly Danish.
The Designmuseum Denmark, an old restored church
and a token G-wagon to boot!!

The Danes call this look or design language “slowness”, a kind of “less is more” perspective, and to me appreciating this approach makes Danish work understandable. This style has not really found its way into my woodworking over the years as my design tendencies seem to dwell on the traditional. English, and early American influences tend to drive my work; however I have always been fascinated by the cleanness of the Danish execution, not unlike the Zen-ness from traditional Japanese style and design. 

It should therefore come as no surprise that when I found myself working in Denmark that I would explore this school more. This past trip I spent the better part of a day at the Designmuseum Denmark exploring some of the most influential pieces of Danish modern furniture from the masters of this genre.

Armed with my new Hasselblad I shot a few hundred images to digest and write about in the future.

This classic chair can be bought today as new.
This shop also shows all the parts which go into
building this classic Danish piece.

Not hard to see the remblance to this original
Hans Wegner chair from 1945
Something that fascinates me with Danish furniture is that one can buy a newly made piece that still bears the name of the original designer (not inspired by) and is built using modern techniques while remaining true to the original design. It is not uncommon to see chairs attributed to Klint and Mogensen that are obviously built recently by licensed firms, but still bearing the names of the old masters. My trip to the Designmuseum Denmark on this most recent trip served to enlighten me on this perhaps unique approach these gentlemen took to design and attribution. 

Over the next few blogs I will explore some of the key things I have observed about the masters of this school and describe my impressions of them in my warped view of the world.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Please seat yourselves...

With the bench complete, it's time to focus on the chairs. There will be four of them and my model at the left is a reminder of the design. I normally build a full size prototype, but I am becoming quite confident at the chair thing so I thought my prototype would be with quality materials. So in keeping with my favorite wood choices for chairs, I am using cherry and ash.

I will work out all the measurements and styling on this chair and apply it to the remaining four.  I always thought this chair should be natural and not painted and stained, so I am making one to prove this to myself.

I am continuing to work my way through the wrist-slitting work of turning legs - while the pile is dwindling, it is not dwindling fast enough. My strategy now is to stay ahead of the assembly process, I will have just enough legs to build the next chair.  There is also a small matter of leg stretchers which I have not even thought about yet!

There is some production line work here that I thought I would get out of the way - really to avoid turning more legs :-).

Bowback mold in use
Normally an English-style bowback has a steam bent bow and when I started this was the plan. Bought a steamer and steamed a few pieces of ash and maple, after much swearing and frustration I sent those sticks to my buddy for his chiminea. It was at this point I decided there would be a laminated bow for my chairs, AND it was still going to look awesome. Having considerable experience with cold bent laminations in my rockers, benches and chairs I went about building a mold.

I resawed and sanded to thickness 30-some 1/8" 60" long strips of Maple and Cherry for the lams and started to make some bows. The picture at left is the cherry lams for my "prototype" baking in the mold. Leaving them to cook for 24 hours ensures there is no spring-back once they come out of the mold. It is also important that for a bend this severe the lams need to be very close to on quarter, or more swearing will be the result.

While the bows were drying I had a few other jobs I wanted to complete,  so I used the time to check these off...

Our Nylon String Taylor needed a re-string and a cleanup on the ramps, as it was eating strings.
Classical Gas on this guitar is the most heavenly sound. Yes that is Cocobolo.

I built my workshop cabinets in 1994 and it was time for an upgrade. The door needed replacing from the missile off the tablesaw, and I wanted more storage underneath. Drawers were my weapon of choice.

The drawers installed with full-extension slides, I think I gained about 40% more room,
not to mention how easy it is to access stuff at the back.
I needed to brighten things up a bit so decided to paint the cabinets, the base cabinets
and doors are done; next will be the top cabinets.
Some new hardware from Lee Valley spruces them up also.
This has brightened up this end of the shop a lot already.

Back to Laminations!

One Cherry and one Maple one complete, with the next one cooking in the mold.
The strings are there to hold the legs together, but is not really necessary - they are going nowhere.

With a couple more to go I decided to do some layout on the seat. I want to get outside and carve them before its too cold to work outdoors. The dust generated by the grinder is just too much and there is just no way to contain it indoors. I will rough carve them all outside before installing the legs for test-fitting the stretchers.

My layout work on the seat. This design will not be heavily carved like the Maloof style.
I am only going down 1/2" in the bum section to provide some relief. If I don't like it I will go a bit deeper.

Now back to turning those friggin' legs...

Friday, 10 October 2014

Bench Duty complete!!

Before my latest work trip I managed to get the bench roughed out and now that I am home and settled for a few weeks, I went back to work to finish the bench so it could be delivered.

All but two of the legs were turned so this was the first step and it was good to be back at the lathe. 

My preference is to turn the legs and stretchers and glue them in place before final shaping of the seat. This way everything can be worked in together for the final look. The final step before installing the legs is to finish sand the bottom, tape off the holes as this are is hard to get at after the glueup.

Test-fitting the legs to ensure they fit the mortises and to get the grain orientation correct.

Making sure the legs all line up, the stretchers fit and no surprises before gluing up - always the stressful part!

Legs and stretchers glued and wedged in place, ready for final shaping.
Its a real challenge keeping the painted and the stained parts separate. This was my solution for this.
A coat of stain on the seat brought out some of the curl from the birch, adding a nice effect.

With a few spray coats of satin poly, rubbed out and ready for use.

Shot of the end of the bench showing my detail to transition the front to the back, I sketched this many times
before deciding how I wanted it to work - I am very pleased with this effect.

Another beauty shot.
Hopefully this will see many years of use under the table.