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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Human Touch.


Robert G Indahl

Robert G. Indahl, 81, of West Salem, passed away on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 . He went peacefully at home with the scent of fresh baked cookies filling the house and his wife’s, daughter’s, and granddaughter’s voices in the air. He was born in the summer of 1936 to Harry and Blanche (Osbourne) Indahl and often told fond memories of growing up on the farm. He graduated from West Salem High School in 1954 and entered the Wisconsin National Guard where he served until 1962.

In August of 1964 he married Karen (Koll) Indahl and so began the adventure of their lives together. Having four daughters and one son made his life full but he still found time for his many passions. He was fond of photography and art, returning to Western Technical College and earning a degree in Commercial Arts in 1992, he was often pestered by his children and later grandchildren to draw pictures for them. He enjoyed camping and aviation, for a time holding his pilot’s license and part ownership in a plane. He liked to be prepared for anything and was known to carry more gadgets and tools in his pockets than seemed possible. He sang in barbershop quartets and in the church choir. He was very active in the church and on the school board and was a long-time member of The American Legion.

Maybe most importantly, over the years, Robert and Karen opened their home and hearts to numerous foster children both official and unofficial. From babies dropped off wearing only diapers to their children’s friends. Many, many called them Mom and Dad. Robert was a man of patience and kindness and will be missed.

He is survived by his wife Karen (Koll), daughters Sarah (Joseph) Avampato, Rachel Indahl, Naomi (Derek) Olson and Rebecca Indahl. And his grandchildren Ashley, Alexandria, Nicholas, Chloe, Fayth, and Infinity.

He is preceded in death by his parents, sisters Pauline Ardel (Delbert) Wiltsie and Joyce (Leonard) Hemker and his son Joseph.

________________________________________________________________________________

A year ago when my wife and I bought a new house with my in-laws it was so we could all help take care of each other. Advanced age had made some things difficult for them and we figured our help was better than any assisted living facility. In retrospect I'm glad we, and especially my daughters, had the extra time around them both. Life is inevitably unpredictable, and a short 13 months later we lost Bob due to health complications. The obituary above is one of the most difficult things I've had to string together words for.

And now I find myself at the threshold of another difficult and related task. Bob had decided on cremation a long time ago. But as I sat near Karen listening to the little funeral geek lean into his ash container sales pitch I started to lose my temper. All the selections "tastefully" arranged on the wall were crap. Giant ceramic golf balls and baseballs, gilded vessels of robotically turned aluminum, not one item, not one with soul and heart and the touch of the human hand. We had carefully coordinated the final days of Bob's life with hospice, seen to his needs and arranged to have all his daughters get time with him near the end. We brought him home to his own bed, worked to keep him comfortable as we comforted ourselves. There was human hands, and touch, and love in every decision, every care and every moment. Why should the box that holds his ashes be less considered.

I spoke up before the pitch started. Thanks to the cremation I would have a little time to build a box, a box fit for a human, in the shop where Bob would sometimes sit and watch me work and tell me all the reasons I should find a good radial arm saw like the one he used to have.

My own post-op weight restrictions modulated from 10 to 25 lbs for the last two weeks of my convalescence. Enough to get out in the shop and work if I want and out to the shop I'd go, somehow believing inspiration would just strike me. I had a box in mind but I also had dimensions from the funeral geek for the interior of the air tight, atom bomb proof box my human construct would have to fit inside. I think I was overwhelmed by the responsibility.

I looked at a hundred designs on google photos, and many of them were beautiful and artistic, but the box I was building wasn't intended to carry the burden of shelf display with quarterly dustings. Mine was intended for the ground and the burden was the desire to house a human being's remains inside something made by a human being.

Last night I curled up to my wife and was nearly passed off to sleep when my mind clicked on the image. I could see it clearly, all the joinery, the look, the finish. I could see the construction using some walnut cut from a tree that fell on Bob's childhood home farm. Two remaining boards have followed him for years. He passed them on to me, and asked after them often, but whatever his suggestion, using them didn't feel right until now.

I almost let myself continue off to sleep, promising I'd remember clearly in the morning. My rational mind reminded me that was bullshit. So at one in the morning I found myself sitting in my robe, hunched over a card table set up for all the visiting company and not yet put away, scribbling away in my sketchbook.

Once I had the idea fully rendered I closed the book and went back to bed. This afternoon I returned to the sketches and notes. The thing is there, fully visualized. Tomorrow I head out to the shop with a plan and a purpose. I should have enough to make at least two, a matching one for Karen come her time.

I owe Bob so much. Everything really. Even though I was a loudmouthed long-haired teenage punk dating his daughter, he always showed me patience and kindness, and sometimes turned a necessary blind eye I'm not sure I could. Every decision he made in his life delivered the most important gifts to me. My wife and my daughters. I hope I'm worthy of the challenge.

Ratione et Passionis

Oldwolf





Sunday, November 5, 2017

Check Another Bucket List Box

A while back I had the opportunity to do some of the work I've dreamed of. I built a couple commissions for my favorite museum. The Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor. In an alcove of the basement level there are a few fantastic 17th century great chairs (and one suspicious cabinet) alongside a great display of silver serving platters.

The museums owner wanted three items made. A small pedestal box to raise a very ornate jewelry box up off the carpet. A board he could attach and display several period silver and tin spoons. And a small shelf to display three rare ornate period plates.

There was a little back and forth on the design and getting the color dark enough so he was happy took several tries. But in the end he was very pleased and I have a little feather for my hat. Some of my work is on display in a museum.



The pedestal was designed to be very understated so not to battle with the delicate ornament of the jewelry box. A short dovetailed box with a lid made of four rails and a floating panel so no warping or cleats should be needed with seasonal movement.

This is a good example of the debate I went through on every piece here. In particular I decided to use a electric router to cut the moulding edge around the top. I figure even on a subconscious level the modern execution will set the pedestal apart from the piece it's meant to display.


The spoon board was a different design issue. I worked with the director over several designs I wanted to add a little ornament to help offset the spoons, maybe even draw some attention to them. I traced out the mock up fan display they'd done on foam board and stepped off the arches to correlate to each spoon.

After sawing everything out with a coping saw and refining with rasps and a card scraper I went back in with a scratch stock and cut in the shadow line finishing the points with a V carving chisel.



The plate shelf was the most fun. We wanted something that definitely wasn't modern looking. I started this design based on the corbels, (which are difficult to see in these photos) I took theri design from an engraving of a 17th century kitchen scene.


From there I worked out the gothic arch back board with a handcut moulding on the underside of the shelf itself. The whole thing was pretty successful, I wouldn't mind having a shelf or two like this in my own home.


The finish ended up a little complicated. First I layered on some iron buff to react with the tannins in the wood and darken the grain significantly, then went two coats of an "Ebony" oil based stain. I followed this with a half dozen coats of Garnet Shellac which was rubbed down with 0000 steel wool to cut the glossiness. Then a application and buff of dark colored paste wax and I was done. Just finishing these pieces took two weeks and with the exception of the spoon board I got the coloring pretty well on (The spoon board was already edge joined and cut for the museum by another cabinet maker and given to me. Not wood I chose, nor done really to my standards, but you work with what you get sometimes)

All in all a ridiculously gratifying experience I hope to repeat several times more in my career.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

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.

Derek

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
Oldwolf

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
Oldwolf