Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Boarded Chest V: The Start Of A Vision.

The journey you take as an artist or craftsman (or whatever your prefered nomenclature may be) always makes me think of the movie "Back To The Future," when Doc Brown explains alternate timelines to Marty. Different things effect the timeline creating alternate futures. Different influences at different times can push your work and growth in a thousand different ways. Your work is the sum of decisions and influences as they compile into your timeline of work. You keep grasping, and pulling towards something that feels most like YOU.

A slight change in the timeline, perhaps seeing Wendel Castle's work instead of Peter Follansbee's when you were ripe for inspiration, the outcome could be very different when it comes to executing YOUR work. The things you create that feel like they bubble up intrinsically as opposed to extra-corporeal pressures.The artistic equivalent of "The Butterfly Effect."

People say they love carving or turning, and I can do both, but I don't love them any more (or less) than I love cutting dovetails or flattening a board or sharpening a handsaw. I love these things for what they allow me to accomplish in a final product. This boarded chest project is the exclamation point on a recent body of work that has allowed me to solidify a vision to explore until I exhaust of it and find new fertile ground.

Simple pieces of furniture masquerading as something fancy and fantastic. Simple with a surprise.

So here are the final pics of the boarded chest I chose to name "Start Of A Vision."

You will notice the till lifts out from the body of the chest to reveal a false bottom and a hidden niche. 

If you want to see the collection of posts leading to this finished product, you can find them HERE.

Thank you.

Ratione et Passionis

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Boarded Chest IV

I don't pretend to be extensively traveled or even all that educated. I do spend a lot of time buying and looking at books on woodworking and furniture. Once you begin to look you realize just how many there are out there. Many of the old ones are written by art historians and can be disappointing from a maker/woodworker perspective but I learn something from all of them.

In the shop I had a lid to solve for the boarded chest build and I chose a path a bit unconventional going with a frame and panel. I've seen frame and panel on joined chests and certainly on traditional tool chests, but I cannot recall seeing one tacked to a simple boarded chest. Still, their stability over a flat, cleated panel or even breadboard ends made it my go to choice and kind of fit the theme of a simple chest impersonating something more elegant.

I constructed the outer frame first then used a set of pinch sticks to establish the measurements for the inside panel.

Instead of making a raised panel I ran the rabbets along the front edges and then planed two simple beads into the long edges of the remaining field. Just like the door panel shown as figures T & S from "Doormaking and Window-Making" from Lost Art Press.

 I failed to get a good shot of the panel "in the white" Here is a close up of one of the final shots the chest panel after black paint and lacquer.

It also seems I failed to gather any photos of building the lift out till. It is a simple affair of rabbets and nails with a show face made from curly red oak. There will be more to show of that and the secret hiding place I added in the next, and final instalment on this build.

Ratione et Passionis

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ass, Gas or Grass. Nobody Rides For Free.

Recently I picked up a pair of match planes from Josh at Hyperkitten Tool Co. I can not recommend working with enough. He always has great user stuff for reasonable prices, responsive to emails and quick shipping practices. I've been looking for the right set of these at the right time for a while.

The planes were made by A. Kelly & Ashfield Mass probably around the mid 1800's and showed up in fantastic shape.

Match planes help you easily cut a tongue and groove joint for edge joining boards. They are common planes but finding them relatively clean and unabused can be a challenge especially if they're sized for the always very popular 3/4" thick board. Without them I made this joint very rarely because the other hand tool way to do it involves a rabbet plane and plow plane. (yes there are other ways too.)

I knew the planes I ordered from Josh were made for wider stock and sometimes you can get away with it on thinner stock.

Groove plane with the skate removed.
These just wouldn't work on 3/4" thick stock, No problem because sistering a thin addition to the fence would push the cut over and make it work. Not to mention cover over the small amount of damage to the toe of the plane's fence.

I do need to stop for a second and point out the fantastic molding detail above the skates bed. You just can't get better than the details in old planes.

I added a thin slip of oak, about 1/8" thick, that centered the groove on 3/4" stock and I added a matching slip to the tongue plane. I used some small brass screws counter sunk to hold the slip in place so I can remove it and use the plane on thicker stock when the need arises.

I understand some may have trouble with my decision to make small screw holes in these old planes for my own dirty purposes. It wasn't done without consideration to that matter but there's another truth. I am a tool user not a collector. I have no problem truing up the bottoms of my wooden try plane or sharpening the teeth of my old saws, Every tool in my chest has to do it's job and earn it's keep and I have to do my job to maintain them and keep making things with them. As much as I appreciate the details and elegance of these old planes, they have to be useful to me. There are no freeloaders here.

Truth be told these match planes have paid their due twice now. One in usability, but the second in inspiration. I've been planing a kerfing plane and frame saw build for a while and struggling with how I wanted to execute the body of the kerfing plane. Using the groove plane in this set felt just like I thought a kerfing plane should, so I used it as template.

Kerfing planes coming soon!

Ratione et Passionis

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The New Shop Tour.

Paint, paint, paint.

Move, lift, slide, push, pull, move.

Hang something here. Hang something over there. Shit. Take that down and hang it over there instead.

There is nothing glamorous about setting up a workshop from scratch. Yes there are things to consider like workflow, unique storage solutions, and accessibility but those things are covered to death in the standard "Great Workshops Annual" magazine you see reprinted every year with a new cover (sometimes.)

If you want, need advice on setting up a shop, do yourself a favor and pick up a used copy of Scott Landis's classic "The Workshop Book," from eBay or AbeBooks. (It'll cost you less than $5)

For my experience here. I dissolved two months of hard work into about 10 minutes of video.

Here is a look inside my shop. Enjoy!

Ratione et Passionis

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Boarded Chest III

I was working myself up to the good part. The inside papers were in place and the next step in the process was to turn a pile of boards into a big box. A boarded chest goes together quickly and solidly with a handful of cut nails. I like to drill an undersized pilot hole for these nails, especially through the top board and always at intersecting angles for additional holding power.

 The next step was a strip of moulding that commonly wraps around the chest providing a line of punctuation between the body and legs, Often it runs on just the front and sides, but I decided to wrap it all the way around. I ripped 1 1/2" off a 10 foot pine board, cleaned up the saw marks and fudged a long sticking board apparatus with the remaining board and a plane stop.

One of the best things about a 12 foot long work bench - I can stick a 10 foot moulding without sweating it.

I used a 1/2" bead on one side and a complex moulder on the other to pretty good results.

Then I went through the process of mitering the corners, wrapping it and nailing it in place, (with a little glue too.) The next day I mixed up some putty and filled in all the voids, nail holes, french marks, and coated all the knots. After an hour of dry time I sanded the puttied area smooth and started to apply tape and paint.

 I spent quite a while pondering over this step. I had some notions but no strong plan. After reviewing my notes (yes I take notes, sketchbooks are fro more than just drawing) things came down to a cross between the elegance of this photo I screen shot with my phone.

And this folk art facial.

I will admit. As of right now I have no idea where these photos originated,

I experimented on several test boards to achieve a look similar to the folk art supreme but wanted to maintain the serpentine curvy shape and banding of the high falutin' marquetry.

This is where it landed, to which my daughters immediately observed looks like a pair of ski goggles. Undeterred by their teasing giggles, I pressed forward.

Two coats of green milk paint, (because green contrasts with the red which covers most of the inside) and two coats of lacquer and I was ready to remove the tape and start on the inside.

I left a boarder of tape around the goggle shape. (dammit now I'm calling it that) and started on the inside. Here is the steps I followed:

  1. A thinned layer of gesso tinted with yellow ochre went down 
  2. Next went a layer of blond shellac colored with yellow ochre and burnt sienna pigment, darker than the base gesso, but still fairly yellow
  3. Then a lightly brushed layer of blond shellac with burnt sienna
  4. Then a lightly brushed layer of blond shellac colored with burnt umber, the darkest layer. 
  5. Then I used a stiff bristled artist brush and worked back into the shellac with denatured alcohol. Thinning and removing the top shellac layers and exposing the layers underneath. This process is where the design defined itself. I planned and drew a few ideas for the design, but didn't refer to them at all during this process, I wanted it to feel spontaneous and immediate. 
  6. Then I mixed earth pigments into raw linseed oil and worked back into the field, applying highlights and lowlights. 
It's important to note I allowed at least whole day of curing between each of these steps, I'm unsure if this was necessary but it seemed safe.  

Then I removed the tape and created the banding using off the shelf oil paints. First yellow, then burnt sienna brushed lightly in a cross banding sweep. Then a thin black outline on the inside and outside of the banding to set it apart.

 The end effect is was not displeasing. Very close to what I was after. I let the process cure for a while longer, oil paints and raw linseed oil do take time, then I applied a couple coats of lacquer to the front.

Now it was time to start working on the lid.

Ratione et Passionis

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Boarded Chest II

"The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on."
-Chuck Palahniuk - Choke

With the basic elements of the boarded chest constructed it was time to start moving into the unreal parts of the work. Selecting and executing the design elements that would define the blank canvas I had created. It's the dangerous part of the work. Things bog down in decisions and problem solving and that's trouble if you pride yourself on efficiency. Mistakes can lead to set backs that can involve scrapping the whole thing and starting over.

The first play was the cutouts for the ends. Traditionally these are often shaped like ogee mouldings or something called a "bootjack." Of course I had to find a different path. A scholarly article on medieval architectural mouldings had recently found it's way to my desk and since these cut outs are akin to moulding profiles I looked there for inspiration.

Staying away from the more elaborate ones I decided on a "double hollow" which I promptly reversed in the layout so I suppose now it's a double round, which sounds like a Denny's menu item.

I ganged the sides together, made a few saw cuts and smoothed the final profile with rasps. Subtle but just different enough.

With all the main parts of the chest complete I set everything aside to explore the next element. Lining the chest with bespoke papers. In Victory Chinnery's "Oak Furniture: The British Tradition," There is a small, nearly throw away sentence about chests and boxes being lined with printed papers such as 17th century wood block printed wallpaper. His written words became a worm in my head and I started experimenting with lining many of the carved boxes I've made. Starting with paper I marbleized myself and moving into carving woodblocks and printing my own "wallpapers"

Smaller boxes are one thing, but I wanted to see the effect on a sizable piece of furniture. So I came up with a simpler two tone design and set up for a day of printmaking.

I may have to build or borrow a large roller press to carry out this large scale job again. The red field involved inking and placing the block. Then flipping the block and paper over without slipping, sliding, smearing and burnishing the paper into the block with the back of an old wooden spoon. I'm not looking for a strikingly perfect field, the voids, lift offs and heavy fills add a character missing in today's perfect digital world. A touch of Wabi-sabi is a good thing.

Once the red had set up I moved pack in with a pair of smaller blocks inked in black. I hung them on a makeshift clothes line to dry for a day before . . .

. . . gluing them down to the inside panels The sheets were cut and printed oversize and once the glue was set up and the paper "veneer" set, I trimmed the overhang to fit.

Over the prints I added a couple coats of laquer. I wanted to seal the water based inks from rubbing off or sticking to anything placed inside the chest, especially if it encountered high humidity.

Once everything was set and dried I set up for another dry fit. I wanted to make sure the thickness of the paper didn't interfere with the fit of the simple joinery. Also, I couldn't help myself I had to get a look at the effect. I have to admit, with everything else in "the white" as it were, the colors and vibrancy of the print was pertty overwhelming.

I knew it was too early to pass judgement, The next design decisions were simpler, but maybe more labor intensive.

Ratione et Passionis

The Boarded Chest I

In "The Anarchist's Design Book" Chris Schwarz writes that a boarded chest should take 2 boards and around 10 hours to build. Apparently I took that as a challenge. I took somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 months. Albeit I have excuses. The chest was for me and my use so a paying jobs got in the way, moving my house and shop got in the way, and my own thought patterns, like a murmeration of birds, got in the way.

Boarded chests or 6-board chests are the perfect utilitarian canvas to impose your will upon. I had a desire to explore grain painting, not the subtle kind, the wacko far out there stuff, and I wanted to step up the work I've played with, lining boxes with designed paper, on a large scale item like a chest to see how it felt in overload.

I started with a pile of 1x10x10 foot pine boards from the closest home center. I cross cut them to close to the lengths I wanted and then glued up the panels. Sides, front, back, and bottom. I was not worrying about the lid yet.

With the panels glued up I flattened them. I love the texture of traversed planing in a raking light.

Then I squared up the ends and started laying out for the step joint where the front and back panels rest on the side panels.

Instead of really measuring I used a sector and dividers to measure how tall the legs would be in relation to the sides. I don't recall exactly but a 1:6 ratio seems like what I did.

I cut and ripped the step joint, then I planed rabbets in the bottom of the front and back panel and cut dados in the right place on the end panels.

Then it was time for a dry fit.  Everything worked to satisfaction, but the interesting parts were about to begin.

Ratione et Passionis