Sunday, October 22, 2017

Thank You!

I'm not sure why, but I was completely gobsmacked by the outpour of support and well wishes. I can't thank everyone enough for every thought.

Surgery was successful. I was a bit of an asshole in the PACU (Post-Op Anesthesia Recovery Unit) but not for long. I had fantastic care at every turn.

I've had relatively little pain and haven't taken more than Tylenol since the day after surgery. I'm healing fast and shaking my head at several more weeks of weight restrictions, but I promised to behave and I try hard to keep those. Now I'm down to relearning life from a nutrition standpoint and working to stay away from dehydration. It's a whole new experience.

At my heaviest I topped the scales somewhere around 340 pounds, with pre-op work with a dietician and a prescribed (but torturous) diet I rolled into the OR at #305. This morning I stepped on a scale for the first time in a long time un-prodded, and didn't cross the #300 mark. I haven't seen that number in a decade. The weight falls off fast from the surgery but the trick is to learn and keep the new, appropriate behaviors and habits during the time you are absolutely forced too behave. The surgery can be defeated, human anatomy in amazingly adaptable.

I've been home since Thursday, tonight is the first I've felt like writing, and I meant to go back to the norm and talk about woodworking but felt compelled to express my gratitude instead. Don't worry I'm to curmudgeonly to sustain conversations about much more than the craft for long. Back to words about woodworking starting tomorrow.

But while it lasts, one more time, Thank You.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Soon With Less.

I've struggled with whether or not to write this, but things will be obvious over the next year, and because I do my own stunts in front of the camera here at the Oldwolf Workshop there will be no hiding the changes. So this is an effort to cut past a hundred separate conversations to one.

Next week I will be undergoing a surgical procedure known as Gastric Bypass. Essentially the intention is to surgically shrink the size of my stomach by ninety percent. If you want to know more the Wikipedia entry is very thorough. Because of this I should see significant weight loss in my near future,and admitting it now will lessen my immature (and inappropriate) response to claim I'm undergoing chemotherapy or high colonic cleansings.

But why do that, just eat a salad fatty. I can hear it even if it isn't said out loud, but it's only half the story. i've always been a big bruiser of a person. As a senior in High School I was strong and svelte with a six pack and still weighted in at 190#. After high school I gained weight, but was able to stay active and comfortable. Several years ago I blew out my knee and it was the start of a bad cycle.

The thing about the weight isn't just social acceptance or fitting into an airline or auditorium seat. The thing no one discusses is the pain. Up until a few months ago I had reached a point where everything I did hurt. I know cry me a river snowflake, but the pain isn't short term "oh I passed a kidney stone" it's chronically grinding and never ending. It makes every effort cost you twice as much and alters the scale on which you weigh just how much anything is worth it.

The toughest challenge is admitting you're not enough all by yourself to keep slogging through and gain any measure of sustainable success. I can see the lighthouse but I need help to turn this ship around. After several years of discussion with my doctor and my wife, this is my best option and once the decision was made to pursue surgery it was still almost a two year process to here.

This is anything but a rash and quick fix decision. I work in surgery, I have for almost 20 years. The only outcomes I ever see are bring back complications and usually bad ones. If I'm honest I'm scared to death about this, but I'm so tired of battling the grinding pain everyday I will face anything. The upsides of losing weight, resolving diabetes and high blood pressure and living a more comfortable, possibly longer life seem better than a poke in the eye too.

After next week I will be on weight lifting restrictions for four weeks. That limits what I can really do in the shop. Maybe I'll sharpen a few saws. I also picked up some models to put together in between scheduled walks and high protein meals. I'll keep myself busy and it's possible I'll write more here too, catch up with some of the things I've accomplished without recording here. Mostly I hope I can mangle my concentration down to read. I haven't managed to do more than scan the newer Roubo Tome from Don Williams and company. It's time I fixed that.

So from here on out it will still be the Oldwolf Workshop, only concentrated, with less fillers.

Ratione et Passionis

Moon Sister Pipe

We are a big geek household. Many of us sit around a table and play Dungeons and Dragons every few weeks. We discuss comic book characters and storylines. There are the toy, tabletop game, and book collections.  We quote geeky movies ad nauseum and there is so much . . . so much more. The best part is it gives my a continued stream of things to keep connected to my daughters even as they stand on the edge of true adulthood.

Soon my two oldest are cosplaying the Moon Sisters from the movie "Kubo and the Two Strings" They have the hats and masks and are finishing up cloaks made of feathers, but one of them needed a replica of a magic pipe.

I split off a section of riven red oak, mostly because I have a ton of it. and before I put it on the lathe I did what I considered would be the most difficult thing, drtilled a hole through the center. Well not exactly center, that is nigh impossible, but I drilled it close enough. Then I located the drill hole in the center points as I chucked the piece into the lathe.

I understand common sense thought that the conical points would spread the holes and cause the wood to split. I figured what the hell I'll try it and if it fails, I'll try something different. Turns out it worked just fine. This time. Will I be lucky in the future, I don't know. Probably not. But it was a cool way to center a hollow hole in a spindle.

A little time at the lathe and I worked down the bamboo-ish look of the movie pipe. A lot of skew chisel work which I find to be a fun challenge. After sanding I rubbed on and buffed off some lamp black oil paint.

 I finished up the end of the pipe with my sloyd knife. Then turned my focus to the bowl

 I chucked a small section of 1 1/2" diameter maple dowel into the lathe. Turned a 1/2" round tenon on one end and shaped a bowl shape on the other.

 Then it was off to the drill press, Using forstner bits I drilled a 1/2" round mortise into the stem. Deep enough to expose the hole passing down the center. Then I drilled up from the bowl's tenon with a 1/4" bit, about half the thickness. Then down from the bowl's top with a 3/4" forstner bit.

The above pic shows the inbetween of the finishing. The bowl is done, the stem is about to get re-chucked on the lathe to undergo the final finishing stages, For the gold I used some gold buffing wax my daughters found at the local art store. It was very dried out and difficult to apply but kind of gave the burnished, well used and weathered look I liked. I finished over the wax with a coat of CA glue to give a shine finish, a fake Japanese Urushi if you will.

 I assembled everything then passed my long drill bit back down the end and into the pipe bowl's tenon. This opened up the air passage between the stem and the bowl. I suppose you could really smoke out of this thing if you wanted but I'm certain it wouldn't be that pleasant.

 I used a propane torch to burn and blacken the bowl and bubble the wax and CA glue finish. The weathering and wear this provided was spot on.

 Best of all, Number 2 daughter was very happy with the result. And with stealing my sweatshirt to hang out in the shop on a cooler autumn night.

 An enjoyable couple hour build, that kept me occupied and made a minimal mess because the shop was already prepped for the next day when . . .

. . . TA DA!!! The electricians showed up to run copper from the house to my new sub-panel. Four new outlets inside, one outside, and lots of room to run more in the future. I can become 220 capable now should I choose to be.

Very exciting times in the shop.

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, October 8, 2017

That Which Catches The Eye?

Every woodworker I know has looked at Luca Giordano’s “The Dream Of St. Joseph” and squinted wonderingly at the tools and the workbench. It’s a masterwork to start with but the extensive display of wood butchery devices circa 1700 AD has been rumored to invoke incontinence in important woodworkers.

I spent the middle of last week hanging around Indianapolis, my wife visiting her sister and me doing my best to stay out of their hair. I visited some comic book shops and a fantastic store dedicated to all things Dr. Who. Hit up a couple antique shops and a disappointing visit to my first Rockler store. The most time I spent anywhere was four and a half hours on a Thursday morning at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

I have visited before so it was like seeing old friends. I stopped to gape at the Van Gogh for a while then continued on to see other treats. After the Charles Boule clock I pulled up a chair to sit and study Luca's work closer than before.

The tools are fascinating, but there was this little chair on the opposite side of the painting that kept pulling my attention. Obviously post and rung, with a woven seat. I quite like the shape to the crest rail and the leg turnings are familiar yet whimsical. At the museum I scribbled a couple gesture drawings in my sketchbook and I've redrawn it once a day since, I'm chasing the form and trying to re-capture the indescribable something that catches my eye. Like teasing any solid reality from an artist representation it is elusive. Giordano could achieve with gesture, blending and tricks of light, I'm trying to work from a place of tangibility and hard lines.

I'm leaning myself more and more into chairmaking and after a dozen more drawings I might just have to dig out my old, falling apart copy of "Make A Chair From A Tree" and start cracking.

But first there will be a small interlude.

Ratione et Passionis

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Demonstration Aftermath

This last Sunday I had a blast working with Tom Latane building staked stools based on the style found in many Viking Age digs. With four hours to work we made great progress but didn't make it to completion. We had a smallish, but very enthusiastic crowd. many stayed the entire time, asking good questions and graciously chuckling at our attempts at humor. Thank you to all who attended.

These demonstrations are a ton of work, from packing to hauling, to prepping and planing, but they are a good time and I always come home more energized to get back into the shop.

My area set up before Tom was able to arrive,
unfortunately the only photo I was able to take that day.

The fun part for me was that Tom and I didn't coordinate our techniques or tools at all. We traded back and forth some pictures of the finds and of other attempts at recreating them, but we both took our own genuine approach of turning firewood into a place to sit. I enjoyed watching Tom's choices evolve and the differences.

I was able to come home with a seat blank and three roughed out legs. The museum director is looking forward to finished photos of the work so I cast about finishing the work today. I chose the best section of oak log I had for the seat, but the nearly finished piece was too small for the average adult butt. I had already resigned myself to make a child sized chair

The legs I'd worked came in at just under 2" in places, way to chunky to look good on a child's stool. I set about reducing them down to just fat of 1 1/4".

I set up to straighten and hog off material with a jack plane. I shaved until I had four flats, not caring about making square corners, then I gave them a lazy octagonal shape.

 A pair of bench saddles is your best friend for this kind of work. A corner cut out of a waste block and butting the piece against your plane stop. Simple and effective, my favorite combination.

Then I took them to the Peter Galbert style shave horse I recently finished, I'll write about that adventure soon. I built it for the demonstration, but I've never owned one before, nor have I used one much. As is my normal I accept a new challenge just in time to demonstrate it in front of a crowd. I feel like I have a decent learning curve ahead of me to effectively use the drawshave, but the horse is a beautiful thing to work using a spokeshave. I used a couple of them to turn my ugly octagonal legs back into rounds.

If you look close you can see my sight line layout for the three legs. I lifted these measurements from the three legged chair in Chris Schwarz's "The Anarchist Design Book" because I really like the look he achieved and why go about reinventing for the sake of it. I modified the distances to the seat's edge, but kept the sight lines and resultant angles.

Once the sight lines are done it's set and tape down an angle gauge and start making holes.

 Then the taper reamer makes the holes bottom fat. It's just as important to follow the guide of the angle gauge with the reamer.

With the legs inserted and wedged in place the stool looked like a reject from a Jim Henson workshop. It's good the plan was to remove a significant amount of length to rein the chair back into a small child's range. I chose to make the platform around 12" off the floor.

With the legs shortened things looked closer to right again and I can't say I'm unhappy with the outcome. My nieces and nephew will love it and hopefully use it for years. I'm going to let it dry for a few more days, then sand off the fuzzies, coat it in some iron buff and follow that with some garnet shellac and dark wax.

I'll be sure to put up some finished pics in a week or so.

Ratione et Passionis.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Forest To Furniture 2017

Every year I get a couple chances to do a couple presentations at one of my favorite places in the world. The Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor in Alma Wisconsin. A month ago I fed my medieval history hobby with a presentation on "Hollywood Vs. History: The Facts Shouldn't Ruin A Good Story" It was a lot of fun, I like building these formal(ish) lectures and interacting with the crowd.

Tom on the right and me on the left. Paul Nyborg is a good friend in the middle.
He's demonstrated with us in years past but won't make it this time around.

But next week Sunday Sept. 24th. I get to do something I've come to like even more. For the past few years Tom Latane and I have partnered up in ap presentation called "Forest To Furniture" We show the process of taking logs and producing furniture from the rough parts. In the past we've tackled, general techniques, joined stools (to varying degrees of success), and a small corner shelf, (the two produced are used in the museum)

This year I'm extra excited, we are working on a three legged staked stool based on patterns found in numerous Viking Age archaeological digs. Here's a LINK to google images. It's a simple stool in a staked furniture fashion but I rarely like the reproductions I see done. Last spring I revisited the form myself using Chris Schwarz's work on staked furniture as a guide and I was able to create a prototype I felt better about.

This coming Sunday Tom and I will go about improving on my prototype as anyone who wants to come can sit and watch us sweat and talk sawdust and anything else. The show does cost a nominal fee for the museum but the bad jokes are all free.

Please consider joining us!

Ratione et Passionis

Monday, September 18, 2017

Defiant Woodworking Syndrome.

The thing that really hooked me on "The Anarchist Tool Chest" when I first opened the book was the title to the prologue.

"Disobey Me" 

Those two words, impossible to follow one way or the other, distilled most of my attitude for this world. I was fortunate I traversed my public school education when the term Attention Deficit was only beginning to gain traction and understanding. If then were today I'd probably carry the boat anchor labels of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or Rage Disorder, and most certainly ADHD. To be clear I don't believe I'm any of these things, I'm simply more willful, emotional, and free thinking than your average bear.

Whatever you tell me might be right, but I pathologically refuse to accept things without taking my own punches and learning for myself. If I'm wrong I'm happy to admit it, but I have to find out I'm wrong first. Sometimes it takes me a long time to figure it out.

When I went to install the hinges on my version of The ATC I was mindful about the hardware I was using. I knew Chris advocates slotted screws in furniture and the best argument I've heard from him for it is "because they look right." I debated in my mind for a little bit and came to a thought that went something like this:

"F U Chris, this is a modern take on a traditional tool chest. Slotted screws are the right thing for replacing or replicating an older or period piece, but this is my take built today and I'm gonna use the phillips screws that came with the hinges" 

I've been working out of this chest nearly everyday since 2011 and at first my decision didn't bother me, but in the last six years I've changed. Maybe it was the impetus of building the chest itself, maybe it's just the natural progression of the way my mind works, but soon after I started really studying furniture and woodworking on a deeper level than what the magazines were feeding me. I started finding books recommended by woodworkers I admired and then combing the bibliographies of those books to find that source material. The size of my personal library grew, now somewhere in the range of 250 books.

And the more I've read, and the more I've paged through volumes of furniture, the more I've realized that god dammit Chris you're right, alongside the nail head, the clocked slotted screw just looks like it belongs and the rest, phillips, square, torx, or hex, they stand out like a red devil in a crowd of nuns.

A few days ago I picked up some replacement slot headed wood screws, and I replaced the crappy phillips screws, and now my obsessiveness can move on to a different victim. Oh until I have a chance to redo to redo the compartments in the bottom level of my chest. turns out over time I was wrong about them too. . .

Ratione et Passionis