Sunday, July 27, 2014

Spooned To Distraction.

I could have a hundred things to work on in the shop, deadlines hanging over my head (self imposed and otherwise) and none of that will matter when I find the right distraction. For the last few weeks it's been spoons.

When I went out to the woods with some friends a couple weekends ago and came back with half a cherry log hewn down for a bench, I brought two quarters of the end of that log about 18" long home as well. I told the guys I was gonna make spoons. 

Then I had an event last weekend I was supposed to demo carving at, but I didn't have the time or space to prep and load my carving set up. So I punted, rived a couple blanks from one of the cherry quarters, and packed what I needed to carve spoons. 

I haven't done a lot of spoon making in the past. One sucess and several failed attempts. But it is a lot of fun in a challenging in a very immediate "workmanship of risk" kind of way, but it's also relaxing and somewhat social way of working.  

When I'm working in my shop, most of the time it's a solitary endeavor. Last night instead of being alone in the shop I sat with my family in the living room, carved on a spoon blank I'd started earlier that day, and watched a movie. 

A little bit revolutionary.












I'm still finding my feet and getting a feel for it. I've joined a couple spoon carving. / green woodworking groups on Facebook to get a feel for how others work and what their stuff looks like. 

This morning I rived a dozen more cherry blanks. I'm going to quickly rough them out and keep them and a couple tools in a box by my chair, in the living room. Now I'll have something to do with my hands in the evening. 

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hewing Day

I received an email from a friend earlier this month. Tom Latane was interested in gathering a small group of like-minded folks to spend a day hewing wood with adzes. How do you say no to that?

So two weeks ago, on a cloudy, slightly stormy Saturday morning I gathered a couple axes, wedges, and a thermos of coffee and drove to Tom's shop in Pepin Wisconsin and met the two other gentlemen who decided to join us that day. From there it was a quick drive to the small parcel of woods Tom owns outside the town.


We started by busting apart a cherry log for a couple of us to share. I always fin this to be great fun and super satisfying. Then we all got to work with adzes, each on our own individual logs.


I've never found an adze in what I considered good enough shape to buy it so I had no real experience using one. The concept of swinging a horizontal axe blade in the vicinity of your lower legs and feet flies in the face of the modern, child-proof bottle cap, safety-litigation-congregation's standards. But like anything you have to be smart and keep your head in the game. Pay attention to what's safe and what's not as you're working, think through your actions before you take a swing, and you're fine.

The nice thing is the other guys all brought a nice variety of adze styles along and I took a bit of time with all of them, getting a feel for what I liked and didn't.


While the three of us worked, flattening slabs for benches. Tom worked hewing round logs square for timber framing.


It rained on and off at times, which was refreshing though we didn't get very wet at all under the heavy tree canopy.


When the day was finished I had a new blister and a cherry slab about 3" thick 15" wide on the top side, and a little over 3' long. We all loaded up and took off. The next day I was exhausted, with sore muscles I'd long forgotten I owned, but I still managed to waddle out to the shop and work on the slab some more.

I started by planing the bottom completely flat. I use metal bodied Stanley planes in most of my work, but I find for green work like this, a wooden body plane is superior in feel and function.


With the bottom set, I ran a marking gauge over the ends and snapped some chalk lines to get a uniform thickness to the top. The slab is giving me about 2 1/2". I took a hewing axe and brought the thickness down close, then planed some of the roughness away. I didn't bother getting carried away because I want to give the seat a dish out, like a Windsor chair seat.


I did some dishing, then set the slab aside. I have lots of other work and can't eat the distraction for more than a weekend right now and the slab needs to season a little before I work it some more. I have these visions in my mind of a cross between a Windsor and a Norwegian Sengebenk.

We'll see how that works out.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If I Were a Joiner . . .

Peter Follansbee, an artisan I distinctly look up to and respect, has decided to leave his job as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation. It's sad to me that I will never get the chance to see him in action there. It's exciting to me to think this means he will be teaching more classes and I will have an increased chance to attend one.

The fact that Peter is leaving isn't news. There are rumors that Plimoth Plantation didn't plan to replace him, Chris wrote about this in a post on his blog, but down at the bottom of the comments in that post is a comment by a Sarah MacDonald, that states the organization is updating the job description and expanding the diversity of its craftspeople. (There is no updated job posting for a joiner as of today)

This all gives me pause for thought. What if I were to be hired for the job? I certainly would meet some of the qualifications

I have spent several years developing competency with hand tools in woodworking in general and with working freshly riven, green wood more recently. I can take a fallen tree and turn it into a finished piece of furniture.

I have developed a love for the furniture and construction styles of the 17th century. I have been working on the carving aspect of the craft for several years and it's a very comfortable, natural style for me now.

My most recent carved interpretation. Walnut carved box sides. I haven't finished the till, lid, or bottom yet. 
I have some decent experience demonstrating in front of crowds, often under the guise of medieval historical reenactment. I have demoed for rowdy crowds at medieval faires and festivals, and for fundraising events at libraries and museums.


And I have experience as an lecturer and educator, I spent two years teaching Surgical Technology and Central Service Technology at Western Technical College, before deciding to return to the field. And my work has been published in a major woodworking publication.

Ok . . .  so do I have the job?

Several things will keep me from even applying if the job is posted. Not the least of which is the need to relocate. It is definitely not the right time in our lives to take on another adventure like that. Not for a while.

But the job is still fun to think about, like the "What would I do if I won the lottery?" question. Though the approach that comes across my mind is "What would I do differently?"

Peter is am inspiration to me, I've never managed to come up with a good reason to correspond with him outside of the abject hero workshop and fawning praise of an unapologetic fan boy. But if I were to trip, fall, and land in the job, I would want to make it my own. Standing on the shoulders of giants to see further is more noble than repeating what has been done before in a cookie cutter fashion.

I would certainly have a lot to learn in the job, that would be most of the fun.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Change The World



"The mere act of owning real tools and having the power to use them is a radical and rare idea that can help change the world around us and - if we are persistent - preserve the craft."
Chris Schwarz - The Anarchist's Tool Chest

I have the most amazing woman in the world supporting me. My wife Naomi listens patiently to all my hair brained ideas and ramblings as I piece things together. I understand it can't be easy to put up with me everyday, yet for almost twenty years she has done it with a smile, well, most of the time there's a smile. I was worried my next idea may just push her over the edge into the "not smiling anymore" zone. 

As I worked on the first draft of the chapter on the Maciejowski Bible Footstool, I came across a problem. I needed a way to succinctly show the basics of woodworking joints without getting into a dissertation on them. I decided to create an appendix in the book, something of a brief "Gray's Anatomy of Joinery" section. So I could refer to the page when talking about the cheeks of a tenon, without getting bogged down in explaining in text. 

There are several options to showcase joints, but hand drawing them appealed to me the most. There were other ideas I wanted to have hand drawn for the book as well. Issue being, there was no great place to do this kind of work in our small house. We have a small dining room table, but it's neither comfortable to work at, nor is the flat surface ever free from the clutter of a five person household that includes three teenagers. 

So I proposed an idea to my wife, unsure whether she'd agree or not. I asked to empty out our dining room area and bring in my Father-In-Law's drafting table which he's had in storage for quite a while. 


She didn't even hesitate to say yes.

I cleaned out the area and retrieved the table last weekend and the last few days I've been spending a few hours a day stretching muscles I haven't worked in nearly 20 years. I regularly sketch ideas for furniture and I've made measured drawings, but I haven't done anything I'd consider "real" drawing since the days of drowning myself in art classes. 

The muscles are there, the refinement is returning, and I'm having fun renewing a skill I have not worked on since I was young enough to take it for granted. 


They're not worthy of a gallery, but they'll get the job done. 

Thank you Naomi. 

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf