Monday, November 25, 2013

Moving On.

"Moving On" Completed 11/13.

Built with knotty pines and black cherry for the case, doors, and back. Rosewood and Bloodwood exotics trim out the details. The interior drawer fronts are spalted maple.

 The wall cabinet is 31 1/2" tall, 17 1/2" wide and 8 1/2" deep.

The exterior is finished with two coats of Watco Natural Danish Oil followed by a hand buffed paste wax top coat.

The interior is finished with burnished in beeswax using the polissoir method rediscovered by Don Williams. With the exception of the drawer fronts which received the same Danish Oil and Wax treatment as the exterior.

 Though the piece was inspired by the work of James Krenov. I was compelled to add some of my own flair. Lately I have been experimenting with the linings of boxes, particularly with paper. I will hand marble my own paper, and infact I did so for the interiors of the drawers, but the doors required larger pieces of paper than I have been able to turn out.

I found the lining for the doors at an area art supply store.

It's difficult to be objective about a piece when you've finished it so recently. I would call this the most ambitious and challenging thing I've produced, and then there is little wonder why I feel the near insatiable desire to nit pick the whole thing to death. As I look at it I can see every detail I missed, see different design decisions I should have made, and see every wayward straying of both hands and tools.

Still, I believe it has accomplished the overall goals I set out for myself in the beginning.

1) To build a case piece ala Krenov that would push the boundaries of my abilities in design and execution by stepping outside my comfort zone. .

2) To use materials I had been "saving" for a long while.

3) To build without a measured drawing or even a completed plan in place from the start and complete the process from "The Point Of The Tool" with minimal use of a linear measuring device. Instead I tried to let the material help dictate the outcome of the piece.

I titled the piece "Moving On" because that is an apt interpretation of what the work here really means to me. For one, it's deciding to be done with this piece that has haunted me, for years in my imagination and for months on my workbench. For another it's road marker that breaks from my focus on the techniques of "How" I make something and just dives deeper into the making.

I used to build pieces and break them down on the "How" It was important to me "How" I flattened my stock, or "How" I cut my joinery, The handwork I focused on was my personal badge of honor and the chip on my shoulder. Since starting work in my new shop I've had the space, power, and convenience to rediscover a lot of my old shop machines that spent most of their time covered in tarps in the old shop. This cabinet saw more time on the table saw than any project I've built in the last three years. The way I use my table saw is markedly different than how I used to, but I am using it again. Who knows, at this rate I may even shake hands with my router table again.

It's become less about "how" I make something, and more about "what" I make. And in my mind that's opening the doors to many other areas of the craft I've found fascinating from a distance, but have never been able to muster up the confidence to move into. Veneer work is one of the next things in my sights and not just thanks to the recent "Roubo on Marquetry" book I've come to adore. I'd collected half a dozen books on veneering before I managed to get my hands of Roubo's tome, but I was reading them and saying "someday." Now I'm ready to revisit them, move on, and say tomorrow.

I'm ready for the next step in my evolution.

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fore Plane Squared

I have been feeling an embarrassment of riches this weekend.

For the last few weeks I've been spending my free time dipping into the new translation of "Roubo On Marquetry" and enjoying every page. I've found I cannot burn my way through it very quickly because the things I'm reading in there set my synapses alight and I have to digest the ideas before I move forward.

Then Friday I came home from work to find my copy of Joseph Moxon's "The Art Of Joinery" had arrived. So paging back and forth between both of these historic tomes is amazing. If I didn't know any better I'd say those jokers over at Lost Art Press planned it that way.

I've tried to read through some .pdf versions of "The Art of Joinery" and the accompanying works in the past and I have to admit, I'm not sure I took much away from it in the past, but after Chris Schwarz hammered on it a bit, cleaning up the text and offering his analysis, I'm enjoying it much more this go around and learning some interesting things too.

In Section 3 he spends ink talking about the differences in setting the depth of the plane iron for a wooden fore plane. Later in the text Chris writes about the order he planes down rough stock and that often he works from a heavy set fore plane to a fine set fore plane followed by a smoothing plane. In essence, the process uses two fore planes.

The "fore" plane is a more complex thing to the numbered system ushered in by Leonard Bailey and Stanley Tools. In place of the singular fore plane you have the number 5 Jack Plane of appropriate size and the number 6 Fore Plane of appropriate name. I use both of these planes regularly when bringing a stick of lumber down from rough to square and surfaced.

I use the number 5 with a heavily cambered blade to do the heavy lifting. I use it to traverse the board and knock down the high spots to cure wind and cup. Then I follow with my number 6, I have a lighter camber on the blade and I use it set fairly fine to finish out the flattening and erase the tracks left by the number 5. The final touches them come from a number 4 smoothing plane.

I've found success using that system and I've stuck with it. It's kind of fun to hear that backed up by both Moxon's and Chris's writing.

When I first started making the hand tool transition in my shop and began to put my toes into the vintage plane market I found a great resource in Patrick Leach's "Blood and Gore" resource. I had read through it a dozen times by the time I ran across my number 6 at a flea market and as I picked it up and turned it over in my hands Patrick's playful venom about how he dislikes this plane ran through my head. I put it down and almost walked away.

But the plane had already been cleaned up, restored, and the price was so cheep I'm embarrassed to repeat it. I picked it up and it brought it home and that plane has managed to touch nearly every project I've built since. I pride myself on keeping a modest tool collection. Just what I need to work, and maybe a little more. I could get along without the cursed number 6 but it does make things easier.

It really goes to prove one of the things I've come to love about woodworking. There are a ton of different ways to do every task and, provided they are safe, every single one of them is correct.

Ratione et Passionis

Monday, November 11, 2013

March on.

"March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. march on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones that are on life's path."

Khalil Gibran

On the home stretch with the Kernovian Wall Cabinet. I fit the drawer parts yesterday and dovetailed and glued the drawers together today. Tomorrow I will drill out the pull and get them in for the final fitting. then it will be on to applying the finish.

Ratione et Passionis

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Celebrating A Few Fun Milestones

Yesterday I hit a few small milestones here on the blog that I thought worth mentioning.

First, I managed to write my 300th blog post.

Second, I topped 250,000 hits. Over a quarter million views. That's nickels and dimes in internet currency but to me that's a huge number.

I've read several things lately on blogging and why to do it, especially in the online woodworking community. Are you trying to generate clients to commission your unique bespoke treasures? Are you trying to create a community of discussion around your work and techniques? Are you interested in journaling your experiences in woodworking? Typing the blog for yourself, removed from the pressures or caring what others think or believe. Maybe writing on your blog is fulfilling your dreams of being an independent reporter. Or a teacher. Or a self branding media mogul champion of the world.

I don't blame anyone for any of these ideals. I've gone through all those permutations at one time or another.

It comes down to two simple things for me. The first, and most important, is improvement. Several years ago I wanted to get better at working with hand tools. The answer was to get those tools into my hands and work with them. Overtime my technique improved and I figured out my own rhythm and style.

I started writing this blog for much of the same reason. I've always been fairly good at writing, I wanted to be better. Giving myself an opportunity to do it on a regular basis seemed to make sense and I believe it has. I cringe a bit when I go back to read posts from three or four years ago and I fight the urge to edit and rewrite them. Their existence is part of the journey.

But why a blog? Why something public and not practice my writing in a private journal. It starts as a bit of ego and enjoying an audience, but I've found a cooler by product in the public vetting of what I'm writing and what I'm doing. When I'm off track people have no problem telling me, often it happens in polite emails, and I appreciate that a lot. I'd rather be questioned and be brought back to center that be left hanging out in left field.

Why blog? Because the process helps me learn.

Thank you to everyone who takes a pause in their day to read a little here. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to comment here or email me with questions or corrections.

Derek Olson

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Little Taste Of The Exotic

My favorite beer: Spotted Cow, craft brewed locally here in New Glarus Wisconsin.

My favorite restaurants: Local, family owned places win out over any chain/franchise store every time.

I prefer to buy my lumber from a small saw mill up the river as opposed to buying at a box store.

I guess I'm a domestic kind of guy.

But walking the straight and narrow is difficult, and sometimes I cheat. I'll drink a Coors Light or buy supper in a fast food drive through or buy boards at Home Depot. I've also strayed from the domestic woods I love and despite myself I've gathered a small collection of exotic woods. Most of them came from a random grab bag buy at one of my semi annual pilgrimages to the Woodcraft store in Madison.

I've horded these pieces for a while, but two things made me decide to dig through the dusty collection and liberate some of the selection. The first was the build itself. James Krenov often used exotics to highlight and draw attention to details in his work. I wanted to emulate that, but I found myself waffling in the decision. Working with exotics can be a little like playing with fire. Time after time I've read accounts of accomplished woodworkers, artists who have made their names in grain and sawdust, who have played with exotics and developed an allergy that has made it dangerous for them to be around sawdust at all. An allergy that steals their avocation and their art from them.

If I'm honest, the off chance of that happening is very scary to me. I've held those pieces of exotic on the shelf for a while because of that fear. I thought maybe I'd make the door pulls from black walnut and more cherry wood.

Then I received my copy of "To Make As Perfect As Possible: Roubo on Marquetry" and started reading my way through it. The book starts with an extensive listing of exotic woods, their properties and colors. It took me a while to work my way through that part of the reading, but the overall listing of it was fun and fascinating. It made me think more about my small horde and about how silly it was to have it sit there on the shelf.

I piled it up and planed down several pieces. I wanted to use two contrasting woods. Since the pieces came in a turners grab bag and I'm not very experienced outside my little domestic circle. To me the pieces look like Rosewood and Bloodwood.

Planing the blocks yielded some of the most entertaining shavings I've made. Looking at the color contrast in this small pile helped satisfy my worries that I had made the right choice.

I used the bandsaw to break down the stock into the dimensions I was looking for.

There was some great subtle grain in the bloodwood. I paid attention and set up to bookmatch the grain on the handles. It will be a subtle touch, but the kind that I like.

The rosewood broke down into four blocks to hold the handles.

I marked out the mortise on the rosewood blanks. I drilled them out and squared them with chisels.

Test fitting for a tight fit.

Then I used rasps to round the corners and smoothed them down up to 400 grit paper.

I set them out on the door fronts, I played with several configurations. horizontal, vertical, and asymmetrical. In the end, with some consultation from my wife, we decided that a standard vertical placement in the middle of the door height was the best.

I set them out and mortised the space for the rosewood tabs.

It's satisfying to stand the cabinet up, look at the results, and be happy with what you see. There was one problem I'm not happy about.

Maybe I was overzealous paring out the mortise, the grain of this pine is wild and weak in places with all the small knots and I blew out a significant chunk on the inside of one of the doors. I haven't decided how I'm going to repair it. I imagine it will have to be some kind of patch.

Other than the patch, the cabinet is in the home stretch. The final work will be the two small accent drawers for the inside. I'm using spalted maple for the fronts and cherry for the sides. I've been saving the maple board for just this kind of thing.

What will I do when I run out of these specialty odds and ends?

Ratione et Passionis