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.

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.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Windsor style bench coming along for dining set

Dining Table complete and delivered...


My son and I delivered the dining table to his brother this past week, it was a big hit. We loaned him some chairs to use until I get around to building the ones for the table. A couple of pics...
The finished table, ready for delivery, painted maple base, with stained birch top.

I had my buddy Joey make me some aluminium keys for the trestle.
They make a very nice contrast with the black!

And now for some seating...


The chairs I made for for our dining set were Windsor style, but really a blend of Windsor, Shaker and Wile styles.  The seating for this would be true Windsor style, with a bowback chair with a backsplat. I bought James Mursell's Windsor chair-making book and full-size plans - if you have not made chairs before, do not buy this unless you are getting some instruction. These instructions are not detailed enough to make your first chairs from; take a course, build other chairs, or phone-a-friend to help you get going on your first chairs. That being said, the full-size plans are great to work from.

The model to the right is the model I made to get approval on the design. A previous post shows this is well underway, and I continue to turn a few pieces at a time when I am home. Having made several benches and the fact that the bench does not require a back meant this was the "low hanging fruit" of the seating for me to knock off first. 

Before heading overseas for a couple of weeks, I spent Saturday afternoon outside turning perfectly good birch into sawdust in the wind. A perfect day for carving outside. The rough shape of the bench is done, I will fit the legs and turns the rungs when I get home.

The birch blank, cut to rough shape and holes drilled for the legs.

Depth holes cut on the length to the various depths I need to carve to a consistent depth - let the sawdust begin.

3 hours later...The bench carved down to the depth holes and rough shaped with 50 grit wheel,
ready for leg fitting. Once the legs are installed the final carving will be done and sanded. 
This is a simple project, that should be done with another couple days work. 
The base will be black paint and the seat brown stained to match the rest of the pieces.





Friday, 29 August 2014

Galbert Caliper Review - Spoiler - saves hours!!!


Spindle Turning almost becomes a pleasure .... Almost!


You need to get yourself the "Turner's Tape Measure"


As mentioned in the previous post I have mega number of turnings for these Windsor chairs I am making and while I enjoy turning, the tedium of nearly a hundred turnings for a chair and bench set is not my favorite way to indulge this area of interest. I am so not into production turning that I have to play silly mind games to work my way through the task ... "I will turn two more legs before calling it a day" - get the picture?

The previous set of chairs were done the traditional way using multiple calipers set to several key dimensions and using them to guide the parting tool to the required depth - or at least close to it. The calipers would often vibrate a bit and loosen, modifying their set point and then the swearing begins.

So it was with high hopes that I bought the Galbert Caliper made by Peter Galbert (THE Chairmaker) for exactly this purpose. Lee Valley had recently picked this up so it eliminated the painful gouging (or skewing, if that's your bag) that goes on when we Canucks order stuff from the US. I will not spend a lot of time explaining its use as Peter has done a fine job of this with videos on the link above. If you do any amount of spindle turning, or turning to size for that matter; you must buy one of these. I'm serious, I estimate this saves me 5-8 minutes per spindle for me and that's after lots of practice; if you only turn spindles once in a while, it will save you gobs of time and reduce errors dramatically.

Once the caliper is calibrated (easy) it is very easy to turn to within 1/64" everytime, this aids me tremendously in trying to match my parts so they look close to identical. In a few seconds I can translate my dimensions from the story stick to the blank ready for shaping into beads, coves, curves or whatever. On harder material this is done with the lathe spinning, on softer stuff such as pine, you need to stop the lathe as the guide bar will mark the wood.

Do yourself a favour and make this investment, it will be the one of the best tool buys you will ever make.




Simple to use - just hold it behind the spinning workpiece, stop the parting tool when it hits the depth you are after

Simple design, well made, will definitely improve the quality of your spindle turning.
Peter Galbert calls it the "Turner's Tape measure" - a more appropriate description there is not! 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Dining Set Progress Report

And the adventure begins


After delivering the side table and confirming it met all the technical requirements of colour, look, feel, etc. I embarked on the daunting task of making the rest of the set. A trestle table, four bowback Windsor chairs and a Windsor-style bench (and yes I know there is no such thing, but stylistically speaking it is a Windsor).

I took a somewhat random approach to things in order to mill up the larger pieces of material that were underfoot in the shop:

Let's get started on the chairs...


Gluing up the seats was the first step in breaking down material, as I needed the widest boards for this.
This is birch and will be stained dark brown like the tabletop.

All the seats, with the cherry one I will build the prototype from on top. Lots of turning for the legs, so I like to get started ASAP to break up the wrist-slitting monotony involved!

All the seats cut to rough shape, drilled for legs and bowback, and most of the legs turned
rough to 1-3/4" round

The easiest piece is the table:


The trestle are pretty easy, as I have made the Dad-size version already for our home,
This table will be 36" x 62" long as per request for apartment size. The upright is
mortised into the top cleat and the leg with a 1" x 4" x 6 " long wedged tenon - should hold up!!


The trestles with a coat of paint and the final fitting of the cross-piece which will hold them together.
Just need to cut the mortise for the key to hold it together.
Table base complete, in the "paint booth", amazing how simple these are built.  Pretty easy to
bang together in about 2 days.

Now for the tabletop

The top glued up and the breadboard ends rough cut

Marking the mortise on the end pieces; this ebony marking gauge (sorry mate -  cutting gauge) was
a gift from Chris Vesper and yes it is as nice to use as it is to look at...

You think I am going to cut these by hand?
5/16" mortises for the table's tenon to slide into

All the table parts ready for me to cut the tongue - as soon as the new edge guide for my router gets into Lee Valley - anytime now would be nice...

Back to the lathe

The turning for the chairs are significant, there are 13 different turned elements for each chair. The leg design chosen has a number of complex elements (at least complex for me with limited spindle turning experience). It was time to turn the first leg to work out my strategy for efficient turning and confirm the paper measurements look good in actual material.
The first leg more or less complete, I think I will add a bit more beef to the bottom bead to make it closer to the look of the side table.
Otherwise this design works for me, just 25 more to turn just like this one...


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Searching for retirement groove

Since I retired in June I have been working on developing a routine for my days to get stuff done. Yes I have been golfing, and yes I have been biking a lot; but I have shop commitments which need to be honored.

We are working hard to get the house organized and complete outstanding outdoor projects; lets just say the shingles on the shed still need to go on - lots of summer left though.

The major undertaking in the shop is the design and construction of a dining room set for the eldest's new home; not a trivial challenge getting concesus on a project with a myriad of options and a blank palette. We have concensus and the build is underway. The project involves a new table with a trestle base (my previous design) and a breadboard top with 4 bowback Windsor chairs and a matching bench - simple eh?

If you have read my blog before, you know where this goes...build a model - so I did.  We have a table the same style in our dining room, so the table design was easy - not the chair. After many drawings and emailed pictures and discussions, the design at right was developed.


Some of the parts will be painted black milk paint with a poly overcoat and the rest stained a walnut colour for contrast. The bowback Windsor chair is an amalgam of many traditional designs and the legs will be turned more ornately than the 1/8" dowels the model has.



The next step was to confirm the design in a full-size piece so everyone knew what they were dealing with, so I made a side table using the same design/scheme which could be used as a sideboard in a dining room. This would confirm the turned design, test out the staining and finishing process for me on a smaller piece.

What's a table without some legs, 2.5" sq. blanks and "identical" matching legs

Fitting the breadboard ends for the table top ensure a solid end product!

I do not paint a lot of pieces, and I have heard it said that paint hides a multitude of sins - BS!
To me a painted finish actually magnifies defects (black more-so), and getting this perfect took a couple of coats!!

The finished table outside today for its beauty shot, just need to deliver it!

Now onto building that dining table...



Monday, 19 May 2014

Putting Oneway 1640 through its paces

My new lathe has been a round for a few weeks and it is a dream to use. I have been turning a few small projects just to get used to the controls and also to get it properly positioned in the space I have. I have also upgraded my sharpening setup to an 8" slow-speed grinder with a 180 grit CBN wheel from D-way. I wish I had done this a long time ago, these high tech (and expensive) wheels are optimized for HSS and one pass over the wheel and back to the lathe. I have an 8" white wheel from LV which is for re-shaping on the other side of the grinder.

Here's a few of the things I have spun out on the new lathe, which is just such an amazing piece of machinery:

I wanted a Longworth chuck for my last lathe and just never got around to making one; I had the Oneway jumbo jaws which did the trick when I needed to reverse a piece for finishing. This one is 16" in diameter and epoxied to one of the 3" faceplates my buddy Joey made for me.




The longworth came in handy for the first bowl I turned on the new baby - Apple about 9" diameter.

The first bowl from the new machine, this is a piece of Apple Dad picked up for me 15 years ago.
This was actually the first project turned, it will be a lamp once the hardware arrives.
The base is some of the same apple as above and the shade is pine.

My Walnut and maple handwheel
Oneway Handwheel hub.
The reverse side.
 One of the few things I did not like about the Oneway was the exposed thread on the outboard side of the headstock. I put a faceplate on the end to give me something to turn the spindle manually, but I did not want to tie up a faceplate for this. Obviously Oneway knows this is an issue so they make an aluminum handwheel hub so the owner can turn their own handwheel for their lathe. I have been using the new handwheel for a few days and its is the perfect size for my hand and is much safer than the faceplate.



Bacote
 I had picked up a few wine stopper kits at WIA last year from Craft Supplies and was looking for a quick project for the lathe and pulled these down. Yes I know that using this lathe to turn these small projects is like using a 12 gauge to kill a squirrel (yes I have); but I was on a roll - if I make them again I will use my bench top lathe - I promise!

 I have a few offcuts from tool handles that are on the shelf next to the lathe for small projects. I used the first two pieces I grabbed - bacote and cocobolo.

Cocobolo

The shapes for these things are everything under the sun, I did a few image searches and headed downstairs to make my own interpretation. These are apparently for re-capping a bottle of leftover wine; but I have never heard of that phenomenon - leftover wine? huh.







Back to the shop!!