Thursday, May 31, 2012

New To The Blog

I have wanted a gallery page to organize finished pictures of my work for a long while now, and thanks to some added time on my posterior, I have accomplished it,

The list of my finished pieces is not complete there yet, in fact I only have my carved boxes loaded so far, but it will grow over the next few days and eventually it will be an easier place to refer friends and clients to when they want to see examples of my work and skip the endless prattle that often accompanies my pictures here. The pages are built to be more commercial in appearance, which brings up the possibility of my selling of some un-needed tools in the near future. (still working at untying the apron strings at that one)

At any rate, if you'd like, stop over, take a gander, and let me know what you think. I've got dovetails figured out but manipulating the conceptual configurations of the interweb.....let's say I know just enough to get into trouble.

There's a link on my sidebar or you can just click HERE.

Ratione et Passionis

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dreaming the Perfect Glass Slipper Will Come My Way

I am a little over a week past my ACL replacement surgery and I am downright tired of sitting on my ass.

There, I have that out of my system. Endurance and creativity will be my saviors. Beyond my marriage and family I have four passions in life: Historical Reenactment, Woodworking, Reading, and Writing. The first two require some physicality beyond the reading and study side of things, some physicality that is beyond me for several weeks yet. I decided I would take some time to work on the third item and catch up on my reading

This last week I have done nothing much but read, and read, and read a little more. By Thursday I had caught up with all the woodworking blogs in my reader and I've found and added several more. By Saturday morning I was wishing everyone out there would hurry up and put out more new content to help keep me content. By Saturday afternoon I started thinking about the fourth item on my list and decided it was time to start working on some writing.

I should explain that my writing extends beyond this blog, I have a hundred ideas for fiction and non fiction books alike scrawled in my journals. Having ideas is the fun part for me, getting the time wheedled out to accomplish more than an idea or an outline, not as easy. It's something I've accepted, things happen when they are ready sometimes, forcing them does no one any favors. At this point I have too many things I want to build to let myself become completely involved in another world in another universe.

But what about a book on woodworking, that would seem obvious right. I do have something to say, more than just the blurbs that bubble up on this blog, but it is not a coherent thing yet at this point. It's not a developed vision because I am still developing as a woodworker and I need time to build that vision before I share it further.

There is one idea I've had that I could start on now, that would get me somewhere. I had the though sometime last summer while visiting a Norwegian Heritage Center located nearby called Norskadalen. It's a great place with pioneer period houses collected on the grounds and filled with great folk furniture. The thing is I don't think many people pay much attention to the furniture itself but some of the stuff is great, diamonds in the rough.

A small but unique side table in one of the log homes at Norkedalen

At first I wanted to just go in and study the stuff maybe creating a book filled with measured drawings similar to the work Glen Huey and Bob Lang did with pieces from MESDA. But I don't want to just photograph and draw these pieces. I'm a sawdust maker, I want to build these pieces. Then I read a great interview Rob Campbell from over at The Joiner's Apprentice did with  Bob Rozaieski from The Logan Cabinet Shoppe. In the interview Bob lamented that there is not a whole lot in print for the hand tool woodworking community. There's good books about the tools and some covering the techniques but there really isn't one, not one I've found anyhow. Where these is the presentation of a several fantastic pieces of furniture followed by a break down of how the writer goes about building it, using hand tools.

A caved log chair (kubbestol) from inside the museum area. 
I think about one of my favorite woodworking books, Glen Huey's "Building 18th century American Furniture." Glen takes several great pieces of  furniture and breaks down the construction of them piece by piece. I like the book because, for lack of a better choice of words, it treats the reader like a grown up. He uses power tools for most of the build but he doesn't use any time or ink talking about how to set up your router or how do go about making a dado or a rabbet with the router. He assumes you know how to do that or you can find the resources that will tell you how. His focus is on the furniture, not the tools.

I thirst for this kind of book related to hand tool woodworking, something written for the stage past being a beginner, past the starting stages of how to flatten a board or cut a dovetail, something past the philosophy of why you my find enjoyment burning electrons only with your ipod, something more than saying "this is the way they used to do it, see what I discovered."

I want a book that is written for those of us who have been converted down the hand tool path, for those of us who have a decent base of knowledge to work from, for those of us who want to step from from the apprentice to the journeyman. There are good books out there a plenty, but nothing I've found feels both up to date and relevant to stepping to the next step. There's not a hand tool oriented book where the focus is on the furniture not the tools.

A workbench with a huge end vice sitting one of the log cabin porches at Norkadalen. I think the ball and chain is somehow related to the Civil War Reenactment that was going on the weekend I took this picture.
I know what I would say to someone. If you can't find the book you want then you should go about writing it yourself. I understand that sentiment, but there's a big part of me that wonders if it's possible. The problem with writing a book like Huey's focus on the furniture is the variety when it comes to hand tools. Let me explain.

If I want to tell you to cut a dado with power most likely one of two operations will come to your mind. You would probably choose a router with a fence or a stacked dado head on a table saw. If I asked you to cut a dado using hand tools only then wow, there's an array of options. I personally like to use a stair saw followed by a chisel and then a router plane to uniform the bottom. Some might use a dado plane, some a backsaw and a chisel, heck you can even do it with a chisel alone if you want. The multitude of options available to me is what I like about using hand tools, but is is a hindrance to making a straightforward book about building furniture.

Am I just asking for too much from a tome? I certainly respect books of measured drawings and how they simply present the piece of furniture and the joinery and allow you to completely decide how you will execute it but they always feel like having just a salad for supper. When I'm done paging through them I'm still hungry and I want some meat.

Do you think the type of media I'm looking for is an impossible order to fill? Am I Prince Charming (ahem) desperately searching for that girl who's foot will fit this perfectly molded glass slipper I've formed in my mind. Is it too much to ask for? I hope not.

Ratione et Passionis

Monday, May 21, 2012

Final Pictures: Wine Ceremony Box #2

It's pictured, packaged, and off to a new home this morning. With the new patterns and the carving on the inside this box is very unique and was a lot of fun to design and create.

I know there must be folks out there that are tired of hearing about 17th century styles carvings and the bible boxes / wine ceremony boxes these details show up on. Other things will be popping up in the future but I am not done with this form or style yet. Not by a long shot, so I guess we will all just have to hang in there together.

Ratione et Passionis

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Importance of Being Busy.

I had big plans for this summer, I had a list as long as my arm of things I wanted to accomplish. I planned to be really busy. On the itinerary was at least a spice chest, a joined stool built right from the tree, and most importantly I wanted to build a carved and joined chest for my oldest daughter Chloe's 16th birthday coming in November.

One of Peter Follansbee's chests, similar to the style I'm thinking about for Chloe.
These things are still all on the itinerary, I may have to modify the order but I will get them done, but things may take longer than I planned for two reasons, one good and one not so good. 

The good reason is the best reason I can imagine. I have been approached by several people this spring to make something for them, I have built things for friends and family in the past, I've done for friends of friends but that's the extent of my reach. But recently I've been fielding emails and requests for pieces from across the country. An insanely humbling experience. 

By far the most popular item has been carved boxes in the form of a Wine Ceremony Box for people's wedding nuptials. It's an honor to be a part of something special in people's lives. I never would have guessed my woodworking adventure would take me here. I do believe that's the definition of adventure though. 

So starting my way down the path of a new Wine Ceremony Box has been my most recent endeavor. This one is designed to hold just a single bottle and the pair of accompanying letters. 

 The sides of the box are a little narrow to get a good carving into so I opted to carve the lid and the front panel, and a little something extra.

The lid of the box was fun. The twin heart motif has been a popular theme for these weddings and so I carved another variation on that theme. Simpler this time because of the narrower space to work with but I worked in a new center medallion. Of course my ideas come from historical pieces or some of the reproduction work I see from Follansbee. I find joy in mixing the elements together in my own take on a design.

I have seen several takes on a repeating series of interwoven circles in historical pieces. This past weekend I visited a great museum and got some close up looks at a couple of 16th century wainscot chairs from across the pond. One of them used a version of the chain across one rail of the back

It was something I wanted to try for a while, finally I decided it was time to go for it.

The client for this box had an unusual request, an idea that I found intriguing. They are getting married in Florida, on a beach, and she wanted something representing the ocean carved on the inside of the box. My carving is typically very geometric but I wanted to make her happy. Its for her wedding after all. I pondered something with waves or sunshine and eventually was struck by an inspired thought.

I was cruising the internet and stumbled on a new blog (new for me to find at least) Mary May is a fantastic artisan, I've watched her "Woodwrights Shop" episode a dozen times as I've been studying to expand my experience into acanthus leaves and similar endeavors from. I began to read my way through her writing and pictures and found a post covering carved Newport shells. A shell is an excellent representation of the ocean.

I was unsure if I could pull it off but time is becoming of the essence and I decided to move forward. I carved my own take on the shell form and in the end was pleased with the results. I hope my client is as well.

I did realize I am going to have to expand my range of gouge sizes if I want to continue down this path. Bigger sweeps will be necessary.

I finished up this evening by gluing up the dovetails and in the morning I'll get the piece sanded and the lid attached. A couple days of finishing, some final pictures, and the piece will be moving its way through the mail to a new home.

So if you might be wondering what the not so good news is that's going to slow my progress this summer. This Friday I will be having surgery to reconstruct a new Anterior Cruciate Ligament in my left knee (among some other various collateral damage from the injury) With all the needed work I will probably end up in a state of non weight bearing for up to six weeks. That will put a damper on my bench time for a while.

I want any clients out there reading this to know that I have planned for this surgery and if you have made a down payment for a piece, it is already on the way out or will be early next week. (I can still apply finish on crutches). If you are thinking about ordering a piece or we have been discussing it but no money has exchange hands, then I will include my recovery time in the estimate when that happens.

The good thing about this though is I will have more time to catch up on all the great blogs out here on the internet and I will have more time to write some myself. Speaking of great blogs out there, go and check out Mary May's blog and add it to your reader. It's an informative and inspiring place.

Talk to you soon.

Ratione et Passionis

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I know I haven't written in a while, but I have an excellent excuse. I have spent the last few weeks picking up my life and getting myself back together after spending a week in Nicaragua on a Medical Mission with a Surgical Brigade made up of several of the surgeons I typically work with. There was also some time taken out to experience some of Nicaragua's beautiful places. I got to spend some time in the hospital and some time out in the rural communities and the whole experience was amazing.

It was a long, full, satisfying week and I am still sorting out and processing everything I saw and felt, and I'm still taking my prophylactic malaria medication, but I have a few things in the works and it's time to get busy and get back in the shop.

Maybe you're interested, maybe you aren't but I thought I'd get back on the old blog here, drop a line, and put up some of the pictures I took. Don't worry, I'll be back to talking sawdust here very soon.

One of the gardens outside my hotel room in Managua.

View from the balcony at the Hotel St. Thomas in Matagalpa

Chapel at the coffee plantation of Selva Negra

The home ownership project at the rural village of El Paradisio. Think a variation of  Habitat for Humanity and check out the view just outside your door. 

A shot down the hall way of the hotel in Granada.

Granada, Nicaragua.

A shot through the sulfur clouds at the rim of the Masaya Volcano.

A shot of the Laguna de Apoyo, a lake filling in a volcanic crater. A picture does not do justice to the scope and beauty  of this vista. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. 

Ratione et Passionis