Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Cats In The Cradle and The Smoking Table

I was at my in-laws home with my oldest daughter Chloe. We were helping move some things around and rearranging a few rooms.

"And that small little table by the bed is so old and broken, just put it out with the trash." My mother-in-law instructed.

I picked up the little table for a closer look at it. It sure was a cute little thing, old and fairly well made, but not old enough looking for me to consider it a true antique. I considered bringing it back to the shop and mending it's broken wings but this was late June - early July. We were still unpacking a house and I was still setting up a shop so I could get moving on the backlog of work I was facing there. I decided I could let it go.

Then Chloe, 17 years old and full of energy, grabs the table. "Oh cool grandma, what kind of table is it?"

"It's a smoking table, the little round drawer is where you were supposed to keep your wacky tabacky." (Yes my mother-in-law talks like that, she is the crowned queen of making up words.)

Chloe then looked at me and I knew the outcome before she even said a word. The table came back to the shop so she could fix it, with my help of course.

It really is a pleasing little table to look at and the round drawer adds just the right amount of whimsy and flair. There was a fair amount of grime and water damage to the finish, I suspect it spent years with a potted plant resting on it at some point and the little leaks and spills from watering made trouble.

The top was pegged and nailed into place but had developed two cracks along the grain.

At one corner of the lower shelf the leg had broken and separated from the shelf.

There was other evidence of past repairs. Glue lines and hardened drips on three of the four legs. Probably not all done by the same hand or at the same time.

The drawer was the coolest part of the piece. Two pieces of thin sheet metal with the edges folded into opposing "J" channels. The channels mate together to allow the drawer to slide and support itself.

The downside is the thin metal has no rigidity and relied on the wooden rounds at the front and back to stay stable. Unfortunately the tacks that held the metal in place has worked their way loose over time as well.

We popped the top off the table and glued it up into one piece again. After it dried I put her to work with a scraper to clean of the squeeze out and remove the damaged finish.

Then we got to work tacking the sheet metal drawer back in place.

Then I helped her repair the finish. We used Dark Walnut Danish Oil to refinish the table top followed by several coats of thinned shellac and paste wax The end result was very satisfying.

But more satisfying than the finished table was spending some time in the shop with Chloe. It's difficult to not get into cliche overtures when it comes to the precious and finite amount of time you really get to spend with your children. I will spare you the over-reaching prose that would undoubtedly fall well short of the mark. 

Instead I will simply say that I find opportunities like this to be incredibly special. I didn't take a lot of pictures because I was having too much fun being there with her, in the moment. 

My children are all big readers, it was important to me that they should be. My parental strategy was simple. I never made them read a thing (with the exception of homework), and I rarely read to them. Instead I would often talk about how important I felt reading was, and I made sure they saw me doing a lot of it. As they've grown all three have taken to books as precious things and reading as a skill to practice. 

In recent years I've taken the same approach when it comes to being "Makers."  I hope that parental gambit pays off in dividends as well. Time will tell, but I love watching the story unfold. 

Ratione et Passionis

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Hardest Decision Can Be To Do Nothing

I've been working away at my Krenov Style wall cabinet and it has been a fun ride so far. The carcass and the doors are finished and glued up. I set them up together to get a feel for the final look.

For the back panels I chose to use more of the pine board I'd had for the doors.

Overall the piece is going together well. Its enjoyable to dabble outside my regular playground and it is moving down the final stretch to finished. That also means it's down to the time where I have to begin making some of the decisions I've been weighing my options on.

The biggest personal debate has been what to do with this.

I don't mean the edge of the dovetail where the grain of the board failed me and chipped out. I'll be fixing that. I'm talking about the big knot in the side of the carcass. There's a smaller one on the other side that's had the core fall out already.

Typically I would have planned my carcass around a knot like this and excised it via cross cut handsaw. However it was important to me to get this carcass all from the same board and by the time I laid it all out I had around two inches to spare. Not enough to exclude the knot, so I chose to put it deep enough into a side where it wouldn't interfere with the dovetail joints.

From the get go I've been trying to decide a plan of action to combat the cursed knot. The best idea I had was to cover it with a thicker inlay. a dutchman patch if you will. Similar to what I did here on the left side to cover some very bad chip out that happened making the through mortise.

Ultimately I made the decision that can be the hardest, I chose to do nothing. As I sat and pondered the cabinet I came to the realization that the knots are the defining character of this whole piece. From the small ones peppered across the pine doors to this larger one in the carcass, the knots tie the work together.

Covering this knot would cause confusion and disharmony with the grain. Like watching ripples cross the water's surface without the satisfaction of throwing the rock that caused them. Cause and effect are important factors in storytelling, and I think covering or disguising this knot would only interrupt and harm the story this piece tells.

Ratione et Passionis

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Wedding Box

 "Most people get married believing a myth that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, intimacy, friendship, and more. The truth is at the start marriage is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out.

There is no love in marriage. There is love in people, and people put love into a marriage.

There is no romance in marriage. You have to infuse it into your marriage.

A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, and praising. Thereby keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty."

-J. Allen Petersen

Carved box 24" wide, 18" deep and 9 1/2" tall. Built of red oak, white oak, and pine. Lined with hand made marbled paper and finished with Watco Black Walnut Danish Oil. Given as a wedding gift to my best friend's oldest daughter and her new husband. I also included the quote above printed on linen paper inside the chest. It is the best summation of the lessons I've learned in 18 years of marriage put into words better than I could craft.

I wish Donna Mae and Justin all the years of happiness, intimacy, and companionship possible.

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Forging A New Distraction.

I have never purchased a subscription to a woodworking magazine. I typically like to pick and choose what I see on the newsstand to whatever tickles my fancy in a bi-monthly cycle. I did win a subscription to Fine Woodworking in a contest not to long ago and it has been showing up in my mailbox.

The most recent issue has a nice article about building a blanket chest by hand written by Andrew Hunter. Touted as a web extra is a video of the author forming his own gimmel or snipe hinges. These period hinges are difficult to come by and fairly expensive if you can find them, but for a lot of the medieval up to 17th century style pieces I like to build, they are what's called for.

A pair of proper gimmal hinges (snipe hinges). This picture was judiciously lifted from Peter Follansbee's Blog Joiner's Notes. 

I've tried to make a go of modifying cotter pins and I've even had a black smith acquaintance from facebook lined up to forge some along with some nails and he never followed through. The video finally lit a fire under my ass to just go make my own. I wanted to be able to make more than snipe hinges, I wanted to forge nails and real hinges as well. To accomplish that I would need a little more than a propane flame in the open air.

I'd heard about soup can forges before but I dived a little deeper and found THIS GREAT VIDEO on youTube. Go ahead and watch, I'll wait for you to come back.

Yesterday while running some other errands we stopped by a craft store and the home center for the supplies. All total, I spent in the neighborhood of twenty dollars to build my own version of the soup can forge.

 It went together pretty quickly, I'd say about an hour of dinking around to get to finished. The toughest part was waiting a few hours for the mixture of plaster of paris and sand to dry enough to fire up the first burn.

It worked!

Of all the things I do have is an actual, full size anvil and some forging tools. More presents from my father In Law from my wife's family's past. This morning I went out to the shop and picked it up off the floor and hefted it up onto the hewing stump. Then started heating the metal and beating the metal into submission.

I have some ideas I think can improve on the forge I built. but this morning it was satisfying to pound out my own gimmel. Like any thing new it will take some time and practice to refine what I'm producing. I'm certainly not planning on becoming the next Peter Ross but being a little more independent and flexible in my hardware choices will be a welcome change to my shop.

Ratione et Passionis

P.S. See the Fine Woodworking video that started me on the path HERE.