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
Oldwolf

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
Oldwolf

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shooting Summer In The Foot

I'm going to spend the next few posts updating on cool thing that have been accomplished and do a little weather vane pointing into the future.

I have finally had time to sit down and reflect back on the past two plus months. They have been busy and productive and exhausting but they have not produced much I feel needs to take up space on this blog or in your reader feed. There has been sawdust, a lot of sawdust, but there has been no furniture nor techniques in the realm of "fine" woodworking,

It started early July with a project that was supposed to eat up maybe two weeks. We have a gazebo structure in our backyard and the previous owner build boardwalks between it and the back door, however the steps out of the back door were narrow, lacking a handrail, and it was torturous watching my Mother-in-Law step out and try and close the door behind herself. We decided building a small deck would be a safer platform for everybody and at the same time I'd complete the fencing around the yard which was 80% done. 

I interrupted my work to help my own parents expand their deck enclosure/dog run and to build a large chicken coop for my sisters new home. She was moving and needed a new place for the birds. The best part of these interruptions is that I got to spend some time working with my dad. 

Of course there are the standard interruptions and hitches that happen with any home improvement project. From removing substandard outdoor wiring to having to replace the entire boardwalk, to having to figure out how to run a 12' stretch of fence, with a gate, across a cement covered area. 

The projects are done now and I can start doing something in the shop again . . . but wait, the shop is trashed, absolutely trashed. When I'm working in my shop I am meticulous, I clean up and put things away in between stages and I keep myself well organized. Apparently that doesn't happen when I'm juggling my own outdoor project and dragging a truck full of tools off to build things elsewhere. Every workbench surface is covered with tools and toolboxes, empty Menards bags and scraps of pressure treated wood, boxes of decking screws and oh I can't go on. It's going to take me two solid days to get the shop workable again.










Along the way I have to find space to keep a few new friends. I purchased a cheap no-name chopsaw to help with all the deck cutting. I gave my old one away years ago and hadn't missed it until I dived unto the construction project world again. There's not a lot of call for it in my furniture work, the cheap ones aren't accurate enough, but I still have to find a place to store it. I've also added a Grizzly 22" scroll saw, to up my marquetry game, I found it for sale used for a very good price but I haven't had time to do more than clean it up and make sure it goes. Changing blades is a trick but with some practice I'll get the hang of it. Still I have to figure out a station or a way/place to store it. 

Still all good problems to have. 

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Find The Flow


A couple years ago, when I first sat back down at the drawing board after a nearly two decade hiatus, I was worried about myself. In my teens I immersed myself in art of all variety, something barely offered in high schools any longer. I have since found out with formal classes, weekend workshops, and independent study programs I actually received more "Art" training than many college level Art Majors. (The discussion of the disappearance of art and shop classes from high schools is shelved for another day.)

I finished high school believing I would take a year or so off, then attend a "real" art school (whatever that means, we all suffer through the pig-headed-ness of teenage idealism.)  Instead I did something that mattered, I married my high school sweetheart (almost 22 years and going) We started a family, and I found a job in healthcare that could provide for them and filled a life too full to add a sketchbook to the load.

My teenage art school self would say something idealistic at this point about holding your artistic resolve in the face of blah blah blah and the blah blah blah. I'd like to meet my teenage self someday. I'd poke that whinny bitch in the eye. Life is about choices and compromises and I don't regret most of them.

Then I started working on my book, and there were concepts I knew I could illustrate better than I could stage a photo, but I was intimidated to sit down and apply graphite to paper again. It's a perishable skill, (for the record, drawing is a Skill NOT a Talent, there's a difference and stop mixing them up, or I'll have to poke you in the eye!) Then Peter Galbert's book arrived on the scene and changed the meta of what a good looking woodworking book can look like. Around the same time I started following a gentleman named Roland Warzecha in his quest to faithfully rediscover medieval sword and shield combat styles. He is writing and illustrating a book on the subject and his work is just fantastic.

For the last 20 years I hadn't done much more than doodle, A gesture drawing, a cartoon face, a bunch of measured drawings. Most of my agglomeration of art supplies had been donated to my children's explorations, but they could be replaced. Mostly I was intimidated by my loss of skilled practice. My eye knows what it wants, what to look for in something satisfactory, I am a very tough and detail oriented critic, especially versus myself.

I sat my ass in a chair and started working at it again. Eventually it's the only option left. I always had a bit of a sketchy style before, but I'm working harder on cleaner lines and solid contrasts now. Finally things are really starting to fall back into a rhythm, I can ease myself into the flow state I used to be able to call at will and I'm starting to turn out work I don't absolutely hate in the end.

If you put it down, you can get it back, you might have to fight a bit, but it's possible. I would say this crosses all hard won skills, drawing, writing, woodworking . . .

If I find the time to re-learn how to play guitar I'm worried I might start to see my acne return!

Damn, then I'd have to poke myself in the eye.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Small Tool Storage Solution Prototype

It had been one of those weeks. Family medical crises, waiting rooms, playing taxi driver, and phone calls, my god the phone calls. By the middle of the week I was feeling more than a little restless and stuck in my head. It was almost 9:00 at night, the sun was just thinking about setting, I turned to my wife and said something like,

"Since everything seems to be under control at the moment, I think I'd like to go out to the shop for a bit. I'll probably just clean up and organize something. Does that sound OK?" 

"Yes honey. That's fine. Go do your thing." 

I flipped on the lights, fired up the fans that circulate the summer humidity, and started putting away errant tools left out. I vacuumed up shavings and sawdust from the floor and started moving stock around one the lumber racks. I started moving a pile of thin 1/8" and 1/2" thick pine I had leftover from resawing 1x stock and I had a thought. 

This was going to be more than just a clean up night. 

Top tray of my tool chest

Middle tray of my tool chest.
I love working out of my traditional tool chest, but I had been gathering clutter in a couple areas and it has been driving me crazy. Pencils, pens, rulers and dividers form a huge golumpus mass in the top tray, and I've never been happy about my mixing of screwdrivers, pliers, nippers and spokeshaves in the middle tray. I never intended it, it just one of those things that happen, but the thin, resawn stock I was holding suddenly seemed like the answer. 

I pulled everything I wanted out of the tool chest and laid it out on the work bench. 


I watch a lot of maker videos in a year, but less woodworking videos than you'd think. I feel like I get more from videos by blacksmiths, replica prop makers, 3D printing gurus and backyard mechanics. Looking outside your chosen genre brings fresh ideas and perspective to your work. Earlier that day, sitting in an ICU waiting room, I was binging Adam Savage's "One Day Build" videos from tested.com particularly one about file storage and his rolling pliers stand.  

Adam buys into a tool storage system he calls First Order Retrieval or F**k Drawers. I cannot say I agree with his views. I prefer a more minimalist approach, but apparently I was failing that in at least 33% of my tool chest till space. For a while I had considered just screwing a plastic cup to the wall by the pencil sharpener, but that only addressed a part of the problem. 

Then I thought about how my friend Tom Latane stores his scrolling pliers in his blacksmith shop. The stock in my hands was a catalyst and with a couple quick gesture drawings in my shop sketchbook and I started moving forward.


























A very satisfying little project, took about three hours sketchbook to lights off. I chose not to break down the build here for a couple reasons. My daughter asked for one of her own right away and I think I can improve on the concept with slightly different materials. Also I want to get better at video: shooting, editing, all the things, and I believe you get better by jumping in and doing it, making mistakes and doing it better.  Since I have another to build I thought I'd shoot my own version of the Tested One Day Build video. That will show all the build decisions and details and should be in the works in the next week or so.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Something Special

It's easy to forget when you don't have someone of high school age in the house but it was recently Graduation Season and Mrs. Wolf and I were happy to see our middle daughter clear this life hurdle. Two down one to go. We also had one of out God-Daughters graduate and talking with her a little bit before her party Mrs. Wolf asked what she wanted as a present. "Nothing much, just something special."  No pressure there right?

Talking later I told my wife it was no problem, I had made a simple pine dovetailed box with an inlaid walnut racing stripe and ended giving it to another God-Daughter several years ago. I could just spend a day in the shop and repeat the exercise. Looking through the modest wood stash I keep, I couldn't find a nice enough pine board.

I did find a reasonable board of red oak. So I made my measurements, cut the board into smaller pieces and started cutting the dovetails on those pieces. I know lots of people make a big deal out of dovetails and there are plenty of people like me who take them as just another joint to cut. Personally I find accurate mortise and tenons by hand to be more challenging. But sometimes even the simple things are a struggle.


Three out of four corners fit together like the should. Nice tight joints. The fourth . . . .I'm still not sure where I went wrong. A combination of slipping while marking out and flipping the board inside out. I was sure I checked my triangle but whatever. Off by nearly a quarter inch for the center two tails, there's no saving that respectively. Not for something that's a gift. Not for something special.

Back to the stack and I found a small 1x6 by six foot long board of box store African Mahogany I'd picked up for who knows why. It was a bit buried and I hadn't seen it the first time. I did zero documentation of the build, but it's pretty straight forward. I dovetailed four sides. attached a bottom, then rip sawed the box in two parts.


I edge glued a lid with a half inch of overhang all around and used a complex moulding plane to shoot a profile around the edge. I attached it to the top half of the box with pocket screws.


 I used a second complex moulding plane to shoot some mouldings I then mitered around the base. Inset and pre installed the hinges which I then removed and finished the box in two halves.


I used a half dozen coats of garnet shellac followed with a dark colored paste wax for the outside. The interior got a good schmear of The Anarchist's Daughter brand Soft Wax. The hinges got reinstalled, and I added a chain and a small jewelry box hasp and padlock to the front.


I wasn't able to go to the graduation party and see her receive the gift, but Mrs. Wolf told me there were tears and joy. I guess we hit the mark with something special.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Friday, May 26, 2017

Roubo's Tool Chest: Frame Saw


This set is something I've been working toward for a long time. A frame saw for resawing boards to thickness and a couple of dedicated kerfing planes to aid the endeavor. Being able to resaw your boards to different thicknesses from what is available off the shelf helps bring your projects to another level of creativity and freedom.

I used the hardware only version of Mark Harrell's Bad Axe Roubo Frame saw kit. Mark threw me a template he had scaled to match the 48" two-man saw Roubo illustrated only on a more manageable one man plate around 30"


Mark's kit and hardware are fantastic! I supplied my own white oak and some of my own ideas and in a couple days of shop time (an hour or two when I can) I have a this wonderful object that helps me parse grain. Mark's reputation as a saw maker doesn't need my poor words to pile on, just trust when I say he's not satisfied until he has things worked out to hit the sweet spot of function. I stopped by his shop to see some of the new things he has in the works and used on of his pre-built saws while I was there.

No kerfing plane used. This thing still tracks a pencil line like a laser beam.


Of course we have Tom Fidgen to thank for bringing these saws and kits to a kind of modern rebirth. After he jumped in the pool and told us the water was fine, many of us gladly played follow the leader.


At testament to the quality, here's the saw face of my saw's test cut in walnut. I was super impressed with the surface left behind, other than the center where the grain failed and the pieces popped apart, this surface would take minimal clean up to make presentable. This is superior to the resaw surface I used to get from my bandsaw with an expensive blade!

So in answer to the question, why would you resaw boards/veneer/ anything by hand if you could just throw it through a bandsaw instead. It's not the novelty, or the workout, it's results like this. The frame saw doesn't take that much longer to actually work. there's no set up/fences/squaring/test cutting to do. Swipe around with the kerfing plane (or don't) and receive nearly finished results.


Every once in awhile I will build a project without doing much documenting. This was one of those so there's not much for process photos. Just the hero shots of the finished product.




One note to clean up. I consider Mark Harrell a friend, but even if I hated the SOB I'd throw my money at him. The depth of knowledge he has assimilated about saws, their function and use and how all the minutia relates to their performance is awe inspiring. Yes I get to go hang out in his shop every so often and see what's cooking and if that makes you jealous . . . I'm ok with that.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf