Sunday, June 27, 2010

Escape to the Bat Cave Boy Wonder!!

Things go up and things go down. That is the circle of life but the truth is you don't necessarily have to feel happy about it when you hit the downs. Sometimes those circles move in different directions at the same time.My trusty PC, the one that has been through hell and back with me, finally coughed and sputtered and kicked out some bad news, It was caught in a loop with a windows update and there was no working my way through any backdoors to clear it. My option was not a favored one, reboot the PC to the beginning and start from scratch. Thank God I back up at the start of each month, but it being late in June, I will lose a months worth of work on it, not to mention I'm now stuck reinstalling the antivirus and msoffice and firefox and a dozen other programs. Very frustrating and time consuming. Part of me is thinking about saying piss on it and going to get a new laptop. If I have to start from scratch anyhow . . . if I had the money I would have decided already. But never fear, while I get things reset on my PC I do still have the wonderful access to my wife's laptop, and that will keep this blog rolling.

So what does one do with all kinds of pent up tech frustration? You retreat to your inner sanctum, your hide-out, your fortress of solitude, the place you can put it all behind you. You pull the head on the little statue that opens up that sliding bookshelf in your study and you go riding down the fireman's pole to the bat-cave. "To the Woodshop Robin!!"  Actually with all the hand tool work I've been doing lately I feel much more like I'm escaping back to the 18th century. (Well the fact that I'm in the middle of reading "The Jointer and Cabinet Maker" might have a significant influence on that feeling as well)

I am so close on the joinery bench I can taste it. I finally got back down to the shop to make a dent on Friday, I had some repair and clean up work to do on it. One of the cleats that holds the legs in place went Epic Fail on me as the glue in the dado failed, upon inspection I found that I didn't get that good of coverage to start with, so I did a light re-plane on both surfaces and reglued the effort. Once I have the hickory I am wrapping the top with on it will add some support to the cleats I won't have to worry as much. I also had to complete the assembly and glue up on the other leg frame (to see the drawboring technique used check my previous post HERE)

Once the frames were complete I worked on the bottom brace that would keep them in square to the bench top. What I may have to remind readers of at this point is that this bench is being designed to knock down for smaller transport so I can take on the road to do hand tool woodworking demonstrations at Medieval and Renaissance Faires. I plan to just set up and build a six board chest from scratch, so that may explain some design choices when it comes to this.

I ganged the legs together and cut out a notch to drop in the bottom rung.

I then selected a straight section of 2x4 and planed it to square. I used the cleats as a guide to set the location of the notches. The notches in the legs I made 3/4" deep and in the cross bar they're 1" deep. I will clean up the ends of the cross bar before the project is over, maybe a nice round over or an ogee profile, but for now I'm all about utility.

I then set legs in place and drilled a single hole through both cleats and the leg to accept a carriage bolt with a wingnut. I think the weight of the benchtop will hold things together nicely but the one bolt on each leg will make sure the construct stays together when it's being moved or set up.

Well at this point you just can't help but set the whole thing up and see here you're at. So I assembled the baby and flipped her over, As you can see from the picture, I desperately need a bigger shop. :)

I am concerned with how top heavy the bench will be, I am thinking I will make some heavy stakes out of re-bar to literally stake the bench to the ground where I work, I'm hoping this will solve that worry. but I won't know for sure until I get to use it in full force.

From here I start to wrap the top in a beautiful hickory board that I bought just for this project, but to see that you will have to tune in to the next episode faithful viewers, (to stick with a cheesy theme here) Same Bat Time - Same Bat Channel. 



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Methods of Work: Mortise and Tenon Joints

This may sound like an admission that is not surprising to anyone but here it goes anyhow. I love cutting and making joinery. So far, at this point in my woodworking career, it is infinitely fascinating to me, I guess I don't ever expect that to change. If I catch myself saying, "oh god, here we go again, another dovetail . . . whoopie do" then I think I'll be hanging up my marking gauge.

Mortise and Tenon joints are basic, stock joints. Easy to get in concept, simple to make and design into a project, basic meat and potatoes woodworking, but at the same time this simplicity can make them oddly difficult to execute perfectly. The simplicity easily reveals mistakes to the trained eye, or worse yet, in the eye of the creator. You want them to be tight, but not a wedge. You like them to be square and lined up correctly but gaps at the shoulders of the joint stand out like sore thumbs. They need to be strong, but to make them as strong as possible you need to find a balance between the two chunks 'o' tree getting pinned together.

I am not a master woodworker, and I do not get these joints perfect every time, but I am getting to a point where I feel pretty comfortable in my abilities and the methods of work I have adopted to get them accomplished in a pretty simple way that yields good results.

I have my way of doing them, I have never been formally taught to do anything in woodworking, and so like other things I found my way into how to do them on my own. But I was thinking about them the other night, and thinking that I don't see anyone else on the web do them quite like I do. I assumed there had to be others around who were like me and that the cutting of this joint would be under some controversy similar to the perpetual dovetail pins or tails first debate.So I jumped onto the forum at and asked the question, "Mortise first or tenon first?"

I wasn't sure what response I would get, that's half the fun of a forum question, but I did not expect every one who bothered to answer (and 317 views at the time that I write this) to basically agree that the cut their mortises first. I did not expect to be a lonely man trapped on the desert island that means I cut my tenons first. Until this I didn't even realize I was so lonesome...(your sympathy is appreciated  :)  )

I work very hard to be a simple man, and I like to keep my operations and shop simple as well, maybe this comes from the fact that I am self taught. I like multi-task basic machines when I use them. There is a possibility that someday I will own a dedicated mortising machine or a horizontal router set up, or one of the million ways I've seen mortises made in the magazines and on TV. but for right now, for my money, you can keep all of those things. All I need to make a mortise and tenon joint is a drill press with a forstner bit, a back saw, a few chisels, a mallet, a marking gauge and a pencil. I do often use a Stanley #71 router plane as well to flatten the sides of the tenon flat to the board face. This is how I do it.

First, now you may want to be sitting down, I cut my tenons . . . has everyone taken a deep breath and recovered. OK, Then lets move on. I scribe out the depth of the tenon on four sides of the board with a marking gauge, then I readjust the gauge to mark the thickness of the tenon, I usually make the thickness half that of the board, so a 3/4 inch board would have a 3/8 inch thick tenon.

Then I take a backsaw and cut the shoulder down to my scribed lines.Then I secure the board against a plane stop and I use a chisel to chip out the would be waste. I like to start by getting the biggest chunks possible and sneaking up on the thickness line I've scribed. So I set the chisel to take half the material, and rap it with the mallet until I meet with my saw line, I work my way across the end grain, then I return to the start and set the chisel to take half of what's remaining. until I sneak up on the scribed line. I like to use as wide of a chisel as possible to do this and I work to keep it level and I do not let it cut down into the meat of the tenon if I can help it, but I don't find disasters in small irregularities. This work will be hidden inside the mortise eventually. I don't try to make things perfectly flat and square with the chisel

Then with the 1/2 inch blade set on my router plane to the appropriate finishing depth and I set it with one knob over the face of the board and the other kind of hanging out in space with the blade ready to cut in and level out the face of the tenon. I use one hand to hold the section on the face tight and flat down to the face and I pivot on that by swinging the end hanging in space. I just work my way across the tenon, flattening as I go. If I run into a area that is seriously higher or I have built up quite of bit infront of the blade, I will go back to a 1 inch chisel and make a few paring cuts so the router plane blade doesn't have to work so hard. This process finishes off both sides. If I had a tenon to make that was off center, then I would just have to make the necessary adjustments with marking gauge and router plane.

Now I use a marking gauge to judge where I want the indent of the tenon from the narrow faces of the board. I undercut with a backsaw using the established shoulders as a guide, Then I chip out the remaining with a chisel, again taking half, then half of what's left, then half again, and finally paring away to the line.

Now I have my tenons, I can use then to help me set exactly where I want my mortises to be.

I lay out the wood to be mortised and lay the tenon across it
And I mark the position for the tenon. I also mark the boards with a pencil mark, so I know which sides are the outward face, and eventually which mortise belongs to which tenon.
Then I hold the tenon flat along the face and scribe a pencil line to set the mortises offset from the face and back of the mortised board, This process is easier to follow in pictures than in to try to explain in words.

Now I have the layout lines for my mortise. For shallow mortises I don't mind chopping them by hand but for deeper ones I still use the drill press and a forstner bit. I did but a set of mortising chisels that fit into the drill press a while ago and I have used them, but in all honesty I was not overly happy with the results and setting up the beast took a while to. I mush prefer to just be simple and chuck a forstner bit in and go. I don't even set the depth stop on the press, I make a mark on the bit with tape or sharpie and I stop by eye.

What I always do, whether I am using a chisel and making the socket by hand, or the drill press and forstner bit. I down size by one. That means to cut a mortise to accept a 3/4 inch thick tenon, I will use a 5/8ths chisel or forstner bit. The undersizing allows me two freedoms.

1. If my drilling is off by a tiny bit from the center line of the scribed lines of the mortise, it is no bit deal, the smaller bit still falls within the proscribed space. Less to worry about and I can be slightly human.

2. I can sneak up on a tight fit to the tenon by paring the sides of the mortise, and I have the room to do that even after removing the wavy ridges left by the press and bit.

I always bottom out the mortise about a quarter inch deeper than the tenon is long. a little room for drawbore pins to pull things together and a space for some excess glue to collect without worry.
When you're set, you test fit the whole thing. this method has never been a problem for me getting frames to turn out square. I do have a penchant for pegging my M&T joints with dowels, or drawbore pins for added strength above and beyond glue, but when its the right thing to do, just I have no worries with glue alone.

So, maybe I do make these joints wrong, maybe I'm misguided and a rebel, (cue the leather jacket, the Marlboro, and some dangerous music) But I find this method to be an easy way to lay out and create this joint simply and quickly without making a whole lot of fuss out of the process.

Let the stone throwing begin!



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Drawbore Oddessy

I almost began to think that a simple economics would price me out of being able to try an operation like drawboring mortise and tenon joints. I am so glad I was wrong.

First, just to be sure we are all together, I'm going to explain, a common practice to better secure mortise and tenon joints is to drill holes through the assembled and finished joint and "pin" it with dowels sized to the holes. cut the dowels off flush and you have a joint that will be mechanically stronger than the glue itself. The picture shows my daughter Fayth cutting dowel pins flush after using them to better secure her half lap joints on a frame, same idea. drawbore pins take the process to the next level. you fit a basic M&T joint but you only drill your initial holes through the mortise board. You then drill holes into the tenon that are off-set just slightly, so when you drive the pins in, the offset holes actually draw the two boards together. forming an even stronger joint that can be done without the want for clamps, and possibly without the requirement of adhesive.

There is a requirement though, to make the joint work you need  a set of specialized tools called "drawbore pins" basically they are tapered metal shafts that will do the initial work of pulling the joint together, and will help shape the way for the incoming dowels. The biggest problem with them, They are god damn expensive!! Ninety dollars a pair at Lie Nielsen, a Google search on shopping tonight showed an antique pair for $155. That these prices I would have never been able to afford them. So I was only doing drawbores in my dreams.

Then I stumbled across a good article by my personal hero, Chris Schwarz, and he spoke about making cheaper beginners drawbore tools from an Alignment Tool (you can check out the article called "Drawboring Resurrected" HERE) and I had a slap myself on the forehead moment. I had done some concrete work while in high school, the pig farm I worked on was remodeling some of the old barns and pens with concrete walls and we used these alignment tools to pin forms together. I felt stupid for not thinking of it myself. At first I went looking on to see if I could order the same set Chris wrote about, no dice, none availible to order. So I took a little trip to Menards and went to the masonry tools, and sure enough a dozen big puppies sitting in a bin. I found the two I considered to be "nicest" bought them and went home. At six bucks a piece I had just managed to get myself into the drawboring game!

I really wanted to give them a try on the legs I'm building for my version of a Joinery Bench, (to see the rest of the build up to this point click HERE) Basically the legs are a frame of 2x material joined with M&T joints. I really wanted the strength that drawboring talked about. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday cutting out th e joints. I started with the tenons. I like to mark them out with a marking gauge and saw the shoulder down to the right depth with a backsaw. Then I use a broad chisel and chunk out most of the wood down close to the marked line. Then I use a router plane set to the right depth to finish the face. I hold my hand steady on the high face of the board and pivot my way through the material. skimming it down level and even.

Then I go again with the marking gauge and this time I chose to remove an inch from each end, I mark it, undercut along the shoulder, and then chop the side of the tenon with a chisel in two or three cuts. The first to remove most, the second to pare close to the line and the third to pare onto the line. the first two cuts are with a mallet. The last paring cut is just pushed.

Then I marked out my mortise locations on the upright sections of the leg frame, I picked up the mortise chisel, looked the process of chopping out eight mortises 3/4 inch wide by 3 inches long by 2 1/4 inch deep. My injured shoulder groaned, my tennis elbow whimpered a little bit, and I turned all Nancy girl for a while. I piled everything into the van and drove over to the soon to be new location for the Oldwolf Workshop, where all the stationary power tools are currently stored. I pulled the tarp off the drill press, reset it up, attaching everything that had been removed for the return trip home from Maine, chucked in a forstner bit, and killed electron after electron.

Honestly I don't feel that bad, I could have spent two more days chopping mortises and destroyed my shoulder for a while from all the hammering, or I could get them done in an hour and a half, with time to set up the machine. This Nancy boy chose the electron path this time. A little more work once I got back to the shop to shave and fit everything for the final go and now we're ready to try the new trick.

Now other people out there on the web have taught drawboring technique better than I can, and I figure why try and reinvent a perfectly good wheel. So here's the quick and dirty of how it went. I decided to use a 3/8ths inch dowel. I rived some up using my newer doweling plate the other day and I was ready to go.
 I drilled the holes through the mortise section of my leg.
 Then I inserted the tenon and marked the location using a 3/8 forstner bit on a brace, The marks have been darkened with a pencil to help identify them here on the blog.

Then I removed the tenon and used a scratch awl to mark a new hole to drill OFFSET TOWARDS THE SHOULDER. I chose an offset almost to the outer line of the original mark. There is no science to this, it is make your best judgment. 

Then I used the new mark from the scratch awl to center the forstner bit, and I drilled the tenon holes. Then, though some sources say no glue in needed, I still decided to add some glue to the mix. and I reassembled the joint together.
Now here's where I made the mistake on my first one. the drawbore pins are supposed to be used in pairs, you drive them into all of the holes to help shape the passage before you pound in the pins that have been tapered on one end. In my excitement, I forgot to shape both holes on the first corner. I pounded in the pin and then tried to force the tapered dowel through a hole that had need no drawbore pin yet. The result EPIC FAIL.  I blew the hell out of the backside. I'll fix things and glue the blown out pieces back into place tomorrow. The next corner I slowed down and got it right.
All four corners done and I have to say. a finished frame leg, no clamp time for the glue to dry, no just trusting the glue alone. the joints feel super solid from the second you say go. I think I may have just found a new addiction.

I pushed the leg into the cleat just to see how it fit and get a rough idea how it would look. I have to say I'm very pleased, I'll fix up the other leg tomorrow. Until then.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm Not Shaping the Wood, I am Beginning to Shape Myself.

It may hurt to verbalize this, but I am not the young rock and roller I used to be. Where I used to drive home from work listening to Pearl Jam or Metallica, these days, more often than not, my relatively short commute finds me listening to National Public Radio talk shows. A few days ago, I listened to a program that was essentially on "Burn Out" and rekindling creativity. It was a very interesting and at one point one of the guests told a story that immediately stuck in my head and sparked off a string of other thoughts. 

The story, which I will embellish a bit from the radio guest's brief version, supposedly comes from Taoist Chinese tradition, and it goes like this.

One day a great, master potter was pushing a heavy cart, laden high with his wares along a path. His sight missed a sizable hole in the road and when one wheel fell into it, the top heavy cart swayed and tipped over, crashing and spilling his wares onto the road, scattering and smashing all his pots. After the shock of the accident passed, he took a deep sigh, righted his cart and began to clean up the destruction, salvaging what he could. Along came a passer-by who had seen the whole spectacle.
"Oh no," the passer-by exclaimed, "What a tragedy to have all your wonderful pots destroyed. You must be heartbroken thinking of all the time you spent making them."
"What makes you think I am heartbroken?" Said the Potter, "I was not using the time to shape these pots, I was using the time to shape my soul. I have lost nothing."

I make sawdust in the workshop pretty constantly, Often using whatever wood I can get my hands on, recycling hinges and hardware, mostly just finding something to do, even if there is no reason to do it. I really enjoy doing casework and joinery, so if I'm working on a project that has no master other than me, it often falls into the form of a chest, or trunk, with the occasional tall case clock thrown in to add variety. Almost all of these things I build find homes other than mine, usually because I have a tendency to give them away to friends, as presents or once in a while for no real occasion at all. I have been know to trade them to other people for similar goods and services, for example I traded my first dovetailed trunk to a blacksmith friend in exchange for two beautiful knives.

This habit of mine, to give away or trade things I've built, set off a discussion between my wife and I a while back. I was talking with her, mostly thinking out loud and bouncing some ideas off her about what I should build next. Her response was that it didn't really matter to her what I built, I was probably going to give it away anyhow. I realize after writing it that that may read like the beginning of an argument, and to be fair to her I want to say that was neither the tone or direction the discussion took. But those words stuck in my head and for awhile I have thought about it intermittently, not out of worry or concern but curiosity. The root question would be "If I care about what I'm making, then why to this point, haven't I cared to place an intrinsic value of what I'm building?" Historically, I have a hard time placing a measurement of value on things I have made, the obvious measurement my wife was referring to would be money.

But I did, and do care about those pieces I built. To me that is without question. So why have I just been able to give them away so freely? I read an interview with Jim Morrison of The Doors once, the interviewer asked if he had always written poetry. His answer was that he had written pages and pages of stuff in high school, but when he left high school he threw those notebooks away and forgot about them. That stuck with me because it seemed odd to me, and I never really understood it until recently. But what Morrison had instinctively done, and to some extent what I have done by fairly freely passing off those things I built, was to cleanse his creative palate of the burdens of past mistakes. I think it's a very Zen like instinct that plugs directly into the process of creativity.

Woodworking is a skill. There are levels to that skill. Writing is a skill. There are levels to that skill also. But at the other side of the journey of skill is the journey of creativity. The better you build up your skill level, the more expressed your creativity can become, because you no longer have to focus so intensely on the individual processes that make up a finished work. Jim Morrison also related how he wanted his poetry to come from his subconscious, that his best stuff came from what he called "automatic writing." He would just let his mind go, not think about what his hand was putting on the paper. He was no longer focused on the process of writing poetry, he had mastered the process, he was able to let go of his concentration on the process and focus instead on the creativity. The Zen focus on the moment.

Whether or not you appreciate Morrison's writing, or even the music of The Doors, is besides the point, because the concept itself spreads universal. There is a distinct difference between master and apprentice, and it's not summed up in skill level alone, surely once an apprentice learns a skill, and practices it thoroughly, they can execute that skill on a close level with a master. Maybe not with the same grace and efficiency, but the end product can be very close. What sets the end products apart then is the subtleties in a piece. The master is able to set aside his focus on the process, on the skill, and see the work as a big picture. The holistic view brings a better harmony to a piece in many subtle and unspoken ways because the mechanics of creation, translating an idea into reality, are automatic. The time has been invested to really learn the skills and the soul of the process, The time has been invested to practice those skills again and again until they come without conscious thought. The time has been invested and it shows in a finished product. Without the time, there can be no mastery.

What makes the master potter from the story a master. It's in the line that he is not heartbroken about the work that has gone into those broken pots. To him pots come and go, as ideas come and go, as seasons come and go. As an apprentice he was focused on the pots and the process, as a master the pot and the process have become tools of expression. Capsules of time and thought to be released into the world.

So, in retrospect, my freeing myself of those pieces I built allowed me to free myself of those processes and any mistakes I could see in them. It allowed me to focus instead on renewing those processes again in a new piece. To practice those processes again and again. As I shape the wood from piece to piece, I renew and shape myself, shape my soul if you will, each repetition moving me farther and farther away from apprentice and closer to the other end of the spectrum. The value I placed in those pieces was paid in the lessons I learned building them, far secondary to any monetary value, so gifting them or trading them instinctively made sense to me. Their dividends were already paid. I didn't fully understand at the time, but I am beginning to now. I am nowhere near a Master's level, but I think realizing the differences and subtleties helps you to better see the path you need to walk to get there. Like the old joke about "how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" and the answer is always, "Practice my boy, practice."



Sunday, June 6, 2010

Doweling Plate

Several months ago, I began this hand tool only journey and I started with a moderately respectable collection of hand tools, most of them inherited from my wife's grandfather Setles. Since I started that journey I have learned so much I hadn't grasped before. This experiment of working only with hand tools has made me a better woodworker over all, and when I return to my hybrid ways, some electron power, some sweat power, I know I'll take the lessons with me that I have learned.

I find myself looking at wood differently, I pay more attention to the grain and quality. I see things I did not see before, and I find myself naturally doing things that I had to really think about how to do in the past. I have deepened my understanding of the process of working wood, and that in itself has changed my perspective. I started making sawdust around ten years ago. I sometimes say that I'm self taught because I never took an official class that told me a thing, but calling myself self taught is a selfish thing as I have let everything be my teacher. From the stacks and stacks of woodworking magazines in my filing cabinet, to the woodworking books I can pile to about three feet high. From the great PBS shows of New Yankee Workshop and Woodwright's Shop, to the internet with countless podcasts, youtube videos and blogs. I have been a student of everything.

Woodworking feels different to me now, there's a little bit of maturity hat has taken place, some growing up has happened. Would it have happened without this process? Who knows. But for the first time I feel like I am advancing past the stage of being a perpetual master-less apprentice, and beginning to head into journeyman's territory. It's difficult to say or make that assessment of yourself, but I'm noticing a difference. I know that I'm not the same woodworker I was a year ago, and I'm not sure I could just say that from year to year in the past. That feels significant to me.

The other part of walking this hand tool journey has been the opportunity to fill out my hand tool collection. In the past I have gotten a new tool once a year, tax return time, a table saw, band saw, power sander, whatever. But spending 20 or 30 dollars here and there on a plane or some chisels or whatever is not the same as dropping one hundred or two hundred dollars or more. Thus I have been able to gather many new options and tools in the past several months.

One tool I have searched for and could not find has been a doweling plate. I am interested in doing some drawboring on the legs of the joinery bench and I pretty much strongly dislike the dowels you purchase from Home Depot or Menards. I've searched on the internet and some of the high end tool manufacturers like Lie Nielsen and I have found some, but not at a price I'm willing to pay, antique stores and eBay have yielded nothing as well. So what's a guy to do?  Make one himself ofcourse.

There's really not much to relate to the process of drilling holes in a section of steel. Hit it with a center punch, and start to drill stopping often to refill the developing divot with some 3 in 1 oil. once the hole is drilled I did a little work with the taper reamer, then hit it with a file, first a flat bastard to take of high edges raised on the face of the plate. then a round file to clean up the holes. What do you know a doweling plate.

I only chose to go with the three most common sizes I use normally, 1/4" 3/8" and 1/2", If I need another size there is more plate here and more steel flat bar stock where that came from as well. I split some mahogany and drove it through the holes to test the plate. everything seemed to work just fine. I was wondering if I needed to temper the steel for a better result and I may still do that, but for right now, I added a peg to the board and hung that bad boy up. A nice little project while I'm waiting for some glue to dry on the joinery bench.

If you can't find what you need, sometimes you're better off just making what you need.



Saturday, June 5, 2010

Looming Deadlines

First off, I apologize for the title, sometimes I have no self control.

Just dropping a few quick notes and some pictures following up on the finish of the Loom project. If you want to see the other portion of the construction you can check out that post HERE.

First off this evening I did a few simple carvings along the uprights of the loom. I know it's supposed to be a work piece but dammit I'm working with Mahogany here and I've heard several times what a treat it is to carve with. So being a feet first kind of guy, I took to it this evening. Now I am still very much a novice at chip carving with chisels, most of my carving before was done with a dremel tool and a burr style bit. I have done a lot of watching of videos on the internet and learning the techniques of others that way. I have to say that probably the most influential person for me to watch has been Peter Follansbee, you can watch his carving technique demonstrated when he visited St. Roy and the Woodwright's Shop HERE. (there are several other videos out on the internet as well, but you'll have to do your own googling)I love how effortless he makes it look. There is no over planning, and no stress about pristine perfection, just the practiced ease of a master at work. I can definitely respect that, and try to imitate it until it becomes second nature to me as well.

I had a small section of Mahogany leftover, about 8" long, and I used that to play with a few simple ideas. I wanted something that was reminiscent of a celtic knot string, but was no where near that involved. It also had to be easily accomplished using the two quality carving tools I own, A shallow gouge and a V tool. After a couple hits and misses I came up with something that looks a bit like a twisting rope. Here is the process I used to pull it off.

I started with a dividers, stepping off the distance that each twist of the carving was to take up.

Then I took the gouge and, holding it straight up and down, struck it with a mallet making a curved cut into the wood. I repeated this for two opposing rows.

Then I took the gouge and laid it shallow to the outside of the line, pushing a half moon cut into the struck cut, The picture explains this better than words and I'm showing here the cut in three steps, staring maybe a quarter inch from the previous line and pushing the second cut at a shallow angle into the first, leaving a half moon cut.

I then used the V tool to connect the half moons together with a sweep between them. A couple more touch ups to finish the round.

Then I took my scratch awl and pounded a single point into the center of the twist. This just seemed to finish off the thought, add a little punctuation to the carving.

All in all the carving went past very quickly and the loom was ready for a finish. I hand rubbed on a coat of Natural Danish Oil, and man oh man did that make the mahogany pop!

Now all that's left is to tack in the rows of brass nails on the top and bottom to hold the strands you weave through (OK so I either don't know or can't remember the correct terminology for the parts of a weaving, Sorry, If you know throw up a comment filling me in)

Anyway the Loom for Lady Ann is done, On to other mayhem.



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And Lo, There Stood a Loom.

Tonight there was a little break from the Joinery Bench build. I was a little short on timber and stopped by the store tonight on the way home from work to pick up what was needed, and while I was there I also picked up a board for a small commission piece I've had sitting in the wings for a little while.

My best friend's wife wants to teach herself to weave, so to do this you need a loom. Now looms can get very complicated but they can also be very simple. Thankfully she was looking for the simple kind. She found a set of plans for what she wanted in an old craft book from the late 60's. I tried to ask several questions to refine what she wanted but, the plan in the book was it. Here's the pic I took of the page with the plans.

A very simple plan that is supposed to be joined in the corners with screws. Of course I had to play with that idea a little. At first I was thinking about mortise and tenon, but then I realized that for weaving you would want the elevation difference between the uprights and the top and bottom cross bars. So I decided to remain more faithful to the original plan, only making a small, I guess you could call it a shallow lap joint, to give a small shoulder on the uprights to support the crossbars and help keep the piece square under tension.

This needed the strength of a hard wood, and thought I hate buying my hardwood from retail giants, I only needed a 1x4x8 to pull this off. So I held my nose and searched the stacks. At first I was thinking oak or poplar, but I have used those flavors a lot in the past. So I just browsed to find something different that I hadn't worked with before. The walnut was blotchy looking, and there was something I didn't like about the cherry, finally I stumbled across the mahogany. I've never had the pleasure before and since I've been doing a lot of reading about 18th century American furniture lately, and there is a lot of mahogany used in that time period. I decided to give it a try.

I can say that I really understand why. It works with hand tools beautifully and easily. I had to rip the 1x4 in half to get started. I know 1x material is thinner than the 2x pine I hand ripped for bench top but I worked so hard to do just one of those boards. This cut so nicely I didn't even work up a real sweat, and I was done in no time.

Then after crosscutting the boards to length I ganged them together in the vice and joined the edges first with my German horned plane, and smoothed with a #4. This was to make sure the matching boards were all the same width.

Then I set to cut what I'm calling a mini lap joint. I started by laying out the boards where they would fit  together and marking where they would overlap onto the uprights. Then I took my gent's saw and cut a very light, maybe barely an 1/8th inch shoulder.

Then I knocked out some of the waste to come off with a 1" chisel.

Then I used the router plane to get all the depths consistent. Man I have to say that once you start using a router plane, suddenly it's easy to find excuses to use it more. Using it to even an end just required me keeping the weight on the side that was sitting on the original height. I think this plane could just be more versatile than most people let on and I'm going to have to do some digging and exploration to find some more tricks with that puppy.

At any rate, a little glue and a little clamp and it's set. Now I have something to work on in the meantime while glue sets and dries on stages of the joinery bench and with luck, a finished loom will be ready for delivery when I see Thom and Ann this weekend.