Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Special Wine Ceremony Box

Around a month ago I had a special occasion to celebrate. My youngest sister was married. It was a fun, free-spirited ceremony set in a outdoor pavilion set right near the banks of the Mississippi River. A beautiful setting and despite it falling on one of the hottest days of the year, I was more than happy to wrap up in a rented monkey suit to join the ceremony. Other than my much sought after attendance, I had one other reasonable contribution to the day. My sister had asked me to build a box for the Wine Ceremony.

Wine Ceremonies seem to be a trendy thing for couples to do in recent years, If you haven't heard here's how they work here's the basics (with plenty of variation between couples). The couple starts with a nice bottle of wine, and two letters sealed in envelopes and a wooden box. The letters are written by each, for the other and sealed unseen into envelopes. Then the letters and the wine are sealed into the box and every so often, every five year anniversary . . .every twenty-five year anniversary . . . the box gets opened, the wine is drank, the letters read, and the honeymoon is revisited.

It also can be used in case of emergency. Marriage problems begin, the box is opened, the wine consumed, the letters read, young love remembered, and the road to resolution begins.

I have built a few of these for clients and friends over the years, but this occasion called for something special. I determined instead of a carved box with a hinged lid I create something that lifted off entirely and was large enough to hold a bottle of wine, a pair of glasses, the letters, and a oversized can of beer (the groom's request).

I determined my sizing, and edge glued up the lid. Cut a molding around the perimeter with a complex molding plane. After digging into my library for a while I picked out the 17th century period carvings to use as inspiration. I mixed a frame and a center from two different pieces, but on paper they worked well together. I scratched in the layout lines with dividers and awl, following with a little line work with a "V" chisel.

The next step is to lay out the rest of the carving work with strikes from various gouges.

With the gouges stamped in it's working back into the pattern, back cutting into the design with those same sweeps.

I cut dovetails for the box sides and glued them up.

Once the glue dried, I planed and trued the box. Then marked a line and ran a saw separating 1 1/4" from the sides. This rim would connect to the bottom of the lid, acting as a cleat system to help maintain the large panels flatness over time. For the connection I used glue along the long grain and two pocket hole screws per side.

I wrapped a little mitered walnut strip along the bottom because the combo of red oak with a little walnut is pretty magical and finished the piece with Tru-oil and dark paste wax.

I machined up some brass rod as registration pins located in three of the four corners (to maintain the same orientation again and again) and installed two hasps on the sides. One for the bride to padlock, and one for the groom. Here is a shot of it set up before the ceremony kicked off. It turned out quite nice.

Congratulations Ben and Majel. Here's to a satisfying life together.

Ratione et Passionis

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Things You Become Good At.

Up to this point I've considered myself an expert in exactly Zero things to do with woodworking. Dabble - sure. Explore - of course. Question, push boundaries, and find new things to get in trouble doing - what else is there to do on a Wednesday night?

The only thing I would admit is it's possible I have more information on Medieval Furniture crammed into my head than any other person walking the planet at this time. I can't wait to finish the book and forget half of it. No, there is one workshop activity I have performed more than anyone I've ever spoken to. I am about to undergo the process again and with all the paperwork signed I cannot live in denial any longer.

I am packing up my shop and moving again.

The first workshop I documented. (There were two before this) Circa 2008 - a basement shop in Maine.
I had just completed this bench. 

Not far. Fourteen miles across town. It's a nicer home, big enough to house both my family and my in-laws as we enter the ranks of the multi-generational home trend. We had first looked into building new,, an I was hopeful for a ground floor shop space connected to the home HVAC. As the better of our options shook out I find myself moving from one 2 car garage to another. Even trade.

Though the new shop space is already insulated with finished walls. That will be a welcome improvement come the wintertime!

My next shop space (4th) located in a 5x9 space at the bottom of the steps leading to an upstairs duplex.
No room for machines here. This was the launch of my hand tool odyssey. 
This new space will become the ninth space I've made sawdust in since I began playing around 2000. Over time I've become exceedingly good at packing up and moving things, even if doing it is something I'm not fond of.

The 5th shop space. This time in a steel shed on my parents land. Hot in the summer cold in the winter.
But a wonderful dedicated space I was grateful to have. 
I thought I'd try and shift my thinking about this move and treat it more like a celebration instead of a hateful slog. This might (hopefully) be the last time I have to fully document the preparations and relocation in a way I have never taken a chance to do before. Maybe sharing these tricks and insights will help someone else as they face their own workshop relocation program.

I count this space as 5 and a half. We were living in an downtown apartment building
and I turned half of our dining room space into a small shop. I maintained it alongside the
shop on my parents land, moving back and forth with the seasons.
My current shop space. Version 7.0. When I moved into this space I had promised
I was done moving shop forever, or at least a long time. except. . . 

I still have other posts and builds to catch up on here, but over the next month or so I will go through the steps of breaking down a well used space and opening up and setting around a functional new space. This will include some of my workbench relocation tips that will be put to the test. The newest challenge will be moving my new bench. twelve foot long, four inch thick top and frame beneath and probably weighing in somewhere around 500- 700 lbs.

I also anually moved things into a space in our small four season porch.
That makes this shop space number eight. 
Now, I'm off to packing again.

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, July 10, 2016

...Within Given Bounds

"The art of pattern design consists not in spreading yourself over a wide field, but expressing yourself within given bounds. 

The very strictness of such bounds is a challenge to invention. In the realm of applied design manufacture is an autocrat, and the machine is taskmaster. Let who CAN rebel against their authority. For those who cannot - and they are the great majority - revolt is futile. We are all of us, artists no less than the rest of the world, dependant upon manufacture; and those of the title who stand aloof from it give grounds for the accusation, commonly brought against artists, of being at best unpractical and wrong headed. Their sense of fairness is at fault, too, in blaming manufacture because it falls short of art, while they stand by and refuse a helping hand to the makers of things which will be made, and must be made, and made by machinery too, whether they like it or whether they do not. It rests with those who have some facility of design (their name is not legion) to come to the aid of manufacture, which, without the help from art, is given over to the ugliness which they deplore." 

- "Pattern Design"  by Lewis F. Day, 1903

Ratione et Passionis

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I Am Project Mayhem And So Can You.

Several years ago, really when I was just beginning to get a sense of myself in the shop and learning new skills everyday, I sat at a table with a couple of big names in woodworking. They were teaching classes at a "The Woodworking Show" stop in Milwaukee. 

The person who asked me to sit and visit was kind and encouraging. He runs a woodworking school so that's only good business. 

The second, a legendary figure in writing about hand tool woodworking was pretty aloof. I wasn't in his radar. It felt a little rude, but it was ok. 

The third is a major figure in one of the bigger woodworking magazines. He was happy to talk to me, but he was also more than happy to shit all over any of my notions about hand tool woodworking and making any kind of living based around woodworking. At that point In my process I needed encouragement and guidance way more than cynicism and discomfiture I was handed. Reading between his lines it was obvious his view of woodworking was mostly reserved for old, retired, men.  
The man is hailed as an leading educator and that only makes the experience so much more disappointing. 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to hang out and help Mike Seimsen teach a class that was exactly the opposite of my early encounter . . . well in Mike's own taciturn way. It was the continuation of the Baby Anarchist classes that Chris Schwarz started a year ago. It's subversive in all the ways I love. A low cost introduction to hand tool rehab, set up, and use focused on young energetic bodies. 

It reminds me of the book Fight Club, with Tyler Durden branching out to start new clubs in new cities until the movement grew larger than the energy of one man. 

When Chris retired from teaching it looked like this class would retire too, but Mike scheduled classes and continued the work, (with Chris's blessing and support). Watching the week long evolution of this group was inspiring. They have the tools, skill sets, and confidence it took me several years to find casting around on my own. I'm more than a little jealous. 

I would like to see these classes multiply and find more teachers and venues. A Project Woodworking Mayhem spread across the country. Hell, I'd love the chance to teach one myself. 

Mike is going to continue teaching the class, he's already finished a second session and I believe has another scheduled for the fall. If you are interested or find or hear someone who is, clue them in. I know these classes are also in need of donations of both tools and money to help them survive. Drop Mike an email and ask what he needs to continue. 

Ratione et Passionis