Thursday, January 18, 2018

Recharge!

Woodworking is typically a solitary pursuit. The introvert in my loves that part. But as you begin to connect to the wider community that is out there you are bound to find like minded people who become fast friends and strong mentors.

The time I get to spend around these individuals is like plugging my car battery into the electrical output of the Hoover Dam. A little shop weary. Running tight on ideas or answers. Generally uninspired. A little visit and some shop talk, or any talk really, and I'm reinvigorated. 


This past November I had a visit at my shop from Don Williams and his wonderful wife. We all chatted for a bit as I gave them the grand tour a Le Chateau Oldwolf. consisting mostly of my library and drawing studio and the workshop outside. Don has become a trusted voice in my world, I look forward to every correspondence with him and just treasure the opportunities to visit in person. 


 After catching up we headed over to visit another person I have infinite respect for. We dropped in on Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Toolworks so Don could see the impressive goings on. I really had a treat as I was able to step back and listen to these guys parse the details of Roubo and the historical saws represented in L’Art Du Menuisier. The thing I really took away from the exchange. The possibility of a revival of the full size frame saw and turning saw as staples in the workshop. 

I know I'm an hand tool, old world craft geek, but I'm more than a little proud of it. 


 Then in December and again just this past week I was able to go down for a couple workdays in the shop of Tom Latane. For me this is so much fun because A; Tom's shop is an amazing place to stand, much less work in. A wood fire in the forge and you get that real, I don't know, romanticised, whimsical feel that is inspiring and conducive to good work. and B: I usually leave behind the projects I'm neck deep in in the shop and choose something different, usually carving, to work on. Something I'd like to get done but there's no rush, something mostly for me.

This time I got to make a new friend in a Blacksmith named Michael Fasold who was teaching himself how to cut dovetail joints, with Tom and me helping (maybe hindering) the process. He's teaching a class on forging an early american thumb latch gate handle at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in Minneapolis. I wish I could make the trip to take it.

There are many others out there I have to find some time and place to meet with. Being around other like minded people really opens up the spigot on the creative flow. If you're not experiencing this you should try and remedy that. Take a class, join a club if you have one nearby, stand out on the highway with a sign in one hand and a jack plane in the other.

 Maybe we just need to get someone to oversee the creation of a Woodworkers Platonic Dating App. . .
Maybe not. I have too much current in my creative juices for my own good right now. :)

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Clothes Maketh The Man?


I have a new phenomenon in my life. It's called the gym. I've never really "worked out" in my entire life and always relied on being just a naturally strong farm boy, but it's part of the suggested post-op program and I'm actually enjoying it. Earlier this week as I was changing into my workout clothes and putting in my headphones (Rage Against The Machine radio) I experienced a connection with the preparation and what I was about to do.

I started to think about the other times in my life I have the same feeling. Most notably I've spent decades culturing the state of mind that accompanies wrapping my body in armor and strapping a sword to my hip. Whether or not there's any combat demonstration, just putting on the armor brings out a side of my personality that is more forceful, decisive and authoritative. I link it to wearing the armor through years combat competition and demonstrations where hesitation can equal loss and possibly injury to yourself or your opposition.


I have the same experience when I go to work at the hospital. In the OR I wear scrubs. The act of putting those on signals the upcoming expectations of the surgeons I work for. Furthermore when I don the sterile surgical gown and gloves this becomes an armor of it's own as I enter into what is kind of a different world with new rules of sterile conscience, boundaries, and mental compartmentalization come into play.

There are routines we all use to align our mind to the events about to take place before us, but also wearing a different costume can course correct a practiced state of mind. It's true that people will often behave differently a suit and tie than a ratty Metallica T-shirt. It seems superficial, but we are all superficial creatures at heart.


All this comes back to the thoughts I had as I headed into the weight room and started my new stretching routine. I don't have a costume for working in the shop. I don't really have a specific routine that signals "game on" to my mind and attitude. When my shop was a twenty minute drive from my bed I had that journey as prep time and I was very productive but the last few years of having my shop less than twenty yards from my bed has broken down the routine and the mindset. I'm more easily distracted and I have a large number of other things I can do (sometimes should do) easily at my fingertips.

To that end I'm going to try and make a change. I ordered a new shop apron, not a fancy custom one, a cheap POS that was probably sewn in a sweatshop. I've never liked wearing a shop apron much in the past, especially when they had pockets, I hated pockets in an apron. But many of my other clothing choices are evolving these days as I more from "if it actually fits it'll have to be good enough" to "do I want to wear this." My experience with a shop apron may evolve too. Maybe I'll love pockets now, maybe I'll like wearing the apron. This one will be easy enough to modify if I want and not feel bad about the bucks I've spent.

Once I get, if I get, acquainted with what I like or don't, I'll know what to shop for in a better made version.

What do you do to get yourself in the right state of mind for the shop?  I'm curious to hear other strategies.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

SOLD: Hand Drawn Anarchist Tool Chest Poster


THIS ITEM HAS SOLD BUT THERE WILL BE OTHER OPORTUNITIES IN THE NEAR FUTURE.  THANK YOU!!

The cold temperatures have kept me from the shop recently, it's too much for the heaters to cope with. I had a sub panel installed in the shop over the summer and since have been greedily eyeing my own mini split system to help keep things livable.

I've also been drawing a ton of chairs in my sketchbook and though I have most of the tools I'd like or need, some nicer seat shaping items are in my sights. Travisher I'm looking at you.

To that end I have decided to sell some things starting with this poster size drawing taken from the picture on page 380 of Chris Schwarz's "The Anarchist Tool Chest." The book is one of my favorite all time works and was very influential on my growth as a woodworker, an artist, and in general, as a person and the inspiration picture is my favorite of the many iconic images Chris and Narayan Nayar managed to capture for the work.

If you follow Chris's writing at all you probably know how he feels about posters. Even though he gets goaded into producing some from time to time they are more "Passion Projects" than anything, thus your chances of seeing a poster sized rendition of this image probably starts and ends here. Chris is aware of the work and has given me full permission to sell this representation.

The drawing is done on 100 lb weight Bristol paper with a vellum finish using graphite pencil and ink. The paper's dimensions are 19"x 24" with the drawings measurements at 16 3/4" x 22 3/8" Not to over state but you are buying a drawing, not a reproduced art print. This is a one of a kind item. I will include domestic shipping in the US, but shipping and insurance costs will have to be covered by an international buyer.


The cost is $300 USD. The first person to send me an email at oldwolfworkshop@gmail.com and tell me they want it wins. The transaction will be handled through Paypal invoice. If for some reason they should fall through it will go to the second email and so on.

It's tough to let go of some work, but if it gets me further along in the shop it will be worth it. Thanks for looking

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Work With Your Hands And Think On Your Feet,


There is always at least one part of a build that blindsides me. Whether I'm working from detailed scaled plans I painstakingly drew myself or a scratched rough sketch on the small chalkboard I keep by the bench, there is always at least one thing I failed to foresee. I understand that's why many prototype important pieces and I could do that. You'd think I'd do that since I'm dealing with such a precious and finite resource as the stock from these two walnut boards.

I'm much more of a two-foot-in kind of person and problems like the one pictured above are actually the challenges I appreciate. I had the miters planned, the sliding rabeted "pencil box" style lid planned, but I missed visualizing where the two would meet. Once I got this far I stopped and cleaned the shop. It helps me think.

I thought about several solutions. Rounding over the points on the miters and saying good enough. This was not the project to take a short cut and say those two words. (I hate those two words) I considered scabbing in little mitered and slotted pieces to fill the gap and bring the sides of the box out even with the end and that was a promising thought, but getting the grain to match and the pieces to hold in alignment in clamps and blah blah blah. It was too complex of a solution.


I'm not sure if this is a common solution to the problem. I don't remember seeing it addressed in magazine or book before but I can't be the first to enact such an explication. It starts with marking and squaring off the offending miter points.


Then using an offcut, creating a tongue and groove joint at the end of the lid.



The tongue board end will be secured with wedged pegs and all will be copacetic again. But there's one more lesson in this piece.


I cut the end piece long for several reasons. Protecting myself from blow out and giving myself a larger reference surface to work from are two important ones, but a side effect is it allows me to slide the piece to fine tune the best visual impact. Early on in my on-going woodworking education I remember watching a video by Charles Neil where he discussed the many ways to consider the grain and it's visual impact in your work.

You can see how the grain lines flow from the panel into the end piece even though they're cross grain to each other. That's a recipe 40% serendipity and 55% paying attention and planning and 5% work.

He blew my mind talking about how in super high end furniture the grain of the stiles and rails (in floating panel doors) should not only flow around the corners, but how the face frame of the cabinet behind the door should be cut from the same boards as the rails and stiles so the grain continues to match as you move visually deeper into the piece. The consideration of the material and it's effect on the details in a work was a paradigm shift for me.

It almost made me quit woodworking. I was sure I'd never be able to work at that level, but once you know about it you start seeing it. Once you start seeing it YOU CAN'T STOP. It's like looking for clocked screws. It is the number one issue that bothers me when I see higher quality manufactured furniture. The thing is, it's not as hard to carry through on as it sounds at first.

The trick I've found is just to be mindful of the concept as you're moving through your wood selection and making your choices. There's a line between being wasteful in slavish obedience to matching grain, and being conscious of how the grain works throughout a piece and aware that while you might be the only person to ever notice the way things line up there is a visual difference that someone unaware of the concept will notice, even on a subliminal level.

It's just one more step into the deep rabbit hole that is woodworking.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Friday, December 22, 2017

From Chaos With Love.


My workshop is my sanctuary. Its slightly dusty atmosphere is where I go to breathe. Where the feel of my tools in my hands is the pathway to feeling re-centered. Anxiety, anger, pensive thoughts, ennui. The workshop is my prescription for all that ails.

There is a distinct mindset that leads to good work at the bench and it doesn't start in these dark places, but the shop helps turn off these bad factors and switch on worthwhile ones. Reminds me of what I am, or can be. In the middle time, during the transition, I often head into battle with chaos.

I have a tendency to try and box the concept of a year into the categories of good or bad. Though I know a year (and a week, a hour, a minute, and so on) is a human construct arbitrarily dividing infinity, I still hold magical thinking that the turn of a new year can reset the karmic switchboard from the previous.

2017 has been a roller coaster year and I'm calling it a karmic draw.

But through it all I have my siege proof fortress. It's there for me when I'm ready and it waits patiently (more patiently than me) when I'm not. The only thing it asks of me is to help hold the line in the battle against chaos.


When I used to read and participate in woodworking forums one of my favorite subjects was shop tours. There is a special pleasure, something I'm certain only the German language has a word for, that comes from looking into another's Sanctum Sanctorum. But there was often something off-putting, off-balance, off.

Many photos I saw were spur of the moment, purported to show the rest of us a real shop, no fancying up cleaning, no staging, no care taken. The concept is to show a shop where work gets done, but there are piles of chaos everywhere. Arioch reins. It's the chaos of my dad's shop in my childhood, where there was barely time to fix or build what needed doing, but not usually enough time to clean up afterwards, with the additional help of my brother and I recklessly rummaging through for whatever we thought we needed.


I can't abide the chaos. It doesn't work for me and I don't understand how it works for anyone. I don't have to work in a pristine fantasy. Items get set out and used until I'm done. But I will often do a complete clean up at the inbetween points of a build.

All or most of the squaring and thicknessing is complete . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

All the major carcass joinery is cut . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Main carcass is glued up . . .  clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Hardware is fit . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Do you see a pattern?


This also includes problem solving moments. Something unexpected results from the joinery choices I made. Something isn't fitting the way it should. I forgot a step in my haste to glue up the carcass and now have to retrofit something. Opportunities for problem solving.

Instead of severing one more wood fiber I will often clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop. Usually by the time I'm done I've solved the problem and I've held the chaos at bay. I've kept up my end of the bargain.

In the end I don't care how you like your shop anymore than I care how you like your steak cooked. It's none of my business and I don't judge. I've come to an agreement with my shop and as long as it upholds it's end of the bargain, so will I.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mitered Corners

Still on the build of a box to hold the cremation ashes of my Father-In-Law for burial. Getting stock from the odd shaped boards was the start but after stickering it and letting it sit for a weekend (while I worked my real job) I came back to address the next steps.

The boards were never well taken care of or protected. The ends sat on concrete floors near open doors for as long as I remember before they were given to me. The faces saw rain and dirt and snow and I never really thought much how beautiful the wood under these layers of crap could be. They had too much sentimental value to him, even though he had given them to me. I was convinced I would just have to move them around the lumber rack forever. It is actually more of a relief getting to build something meaningful from them.


Trimming all the ends square and removing the rot and bug holes was the next step


Then I planed both sides of the boards, first with my #4 then with a #81 scraping plane. I wasn't going for flat as much as clean, and once I scrubbed the scruff off I was super impressed with what was underneath. Some curly figure as well!


All the boards set I took the long board that would yield all four box sided and plowed grooves on the top and bottom.


 I cut them to rough length and shot one end of each side square. I like using my #6 to shoot end grain, it has just the right amount of mass and length.




I used the tablesaw to make the mitered cuts. I find I get my best chance of success shooting my reference edge square (the edge that rides along the fence.)  Your table saw has to be well set up and maintained with the fence set square and then I raise the blade all the way up and then measure the 45 degree tilt using the black reference body from my small combination square. Then I lower the blade down to a reasonable cutting height and set my fence.

For these cuts I cross cut using the fence as the guide, I do not use the miter gauge or any sliding table. I run the miter on one end of matching sides, then creep up on the outside length I'm after with multiple cuts, readjusting the fence each time. I make sure I hold the board edge tight to the fence and control were my fingers fall (away from the blade!)

Once I dial in the cut on the first board, following with the second is easy and the two sides should match up perfectly.


I measured for the top lid and bottom panel and cut rabbets for the grooves. You've gotta work cross grain first and then the long grain to keep the tears inside your eyes.


I find fitting panels like this fiddly, seems I always miss one of my dimension and have to creep up on the perfect size. Fortunately it's not difficult to make the adjustments with hand tools. A couple swipes of a plane here, a little work with a chisel there and everything fits.


Once I had the basic box dry assembled and held together with blue painter's tape I realized a design problem I hadn't anticipated. I'm pretty sure I've figured my way out of it but I'll show you next time. Until then. . .

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Breaking Down Odd Stock

As I began the journey of building a pair of boxes to hold cremation remains in a ground burial vault (you can read the specifics HERE) I had a pair of odd sized boards to break down into regular useable stock.


These walnut boards measure around 16" at their widest giving 7 to 8 foot of length. They were given to me by Bob several years ago and they came from a tree that blew over on the farm he grew up on and that was milled into lumber. Most of the tree went to make a very nice desk that is still in use, I couldn't tell you the date but to hear the stories he had it made right around the time of my wife's birth, forty plus years ago. I don't know how long he hauled the boards around before that.

He kept these two left over stragglers with large sections of crotch grain and told me many times he had intended to make a "very neat" coffee table from them. They lived in leaky garages and sheds until I was given them about seven years ago. He asked after them a bit, wanting to know what I'd made with them, and my response came to be that the boards were too dried out to do anything really with. Not a whole truth but in honesty I was at a loss when it came to how to use them.

By the time I got them large cracks had developed in the wider areas, and splits up from the narrower ends. Dry rot, punkiness, and some bug holes were problems on either end where they'd sat on dirt or concrete, semi exposed to the elements for decades. The shape was odd, triangularish, rhoboid, well odd let's just live with odd as a description. They looked like wide boards but sure didn't look useable as wide boards.

Then Bob passed away and I was discussing the building of these boxes with my wife and she reminded me of these boards. Now there was the perfect project they'd been waiting decades for. But how do you break them down to useable stock?


I pulled them out of the lumber rack and leaned them up against the wall for several days while I finished up a few other half done projects. I needed to get boards finished at 6 1/2" wide from these pieces, as much of it as I could. Both had a mostly flat edge along one side and I decided to start by jointing it out.

Lacking a leg vise doesn't usually bother me but handling stock like this makes it interesting. I supported the board on one of my saw benches. I used a holdfast in the deadman on one end and a clamp across from the other side of the bench to level out the flat area and hold the board.


Then it was just down to work with my #7. I didn't really have what anyone would call a "true face" to reference square off of, I'd just lean down and eyeball the edge every couple strokes to make sure I wasn't tilting or doing something else weird.


Once I had the flat I set my panel gauge to 7" and scratched a line.


I used a ruler to extend the line out past the points where the flat ended. Then I headed back over to the saw benches.


This stuff is shy of 3/4" thick and a 5 TPI rip saw made quick and easy work out of it. In a minute I had one board close to my desire.


On the wider board I marked a square line just inside any cracks or nastiness and cross cut those off.


I repeated the process on the second board. Then I wheeled the tablesaw from the corner because the tablesaw excels at perfectly parallel. I ran the straight edge through at 6 3/4" then ran the other side through at a hair past my 6 1/2" so I can swipe off the machine marks later.


Without mistakes I need total around 52" of material for a box. I managed to get enough good stuff for three and a half boxes. I'm not unhappy with this yield and better yet I'm satisfied I've found the right use for this walnut that has seen such a journey to get to this point.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf