Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Find The Flow


A couple years ago, when I first sat back down at the drawing board after a nearly two decade hiatus, I was worried about myself. In my teens I immersed myself in art of all variety, something barely offered in high schools any longer. I have since found out with formal classes, weekend workshops, and independent study programs I actually received more "Art" training than many college level Art Majors. (The discussion of the disappearance of art and shop classes from high schools is shelved for another day.)

I finished high school believing I would take a year or so off, then attend a "real" art school (whatever that means, we all suffer through the pig-headed-ness of teenage idealism.)  Instead I did something that mattered, I married my high school sweetheart (almost 22 years and going) We started a family, and I found a job in healthcare that could provide for them and filled a life too full to add a sketchbook to the load.

My teenage art school self would say something idealistic at this point about holding your artistic resolve in the face of blah blah blah and the blah blah blah. I'd like to meet my teenage self someday. I'd poke that whinny bitch in the eye. Life is about choices and compromises and I don't regret most of them.

Then I started working on my book, and there were concepts I knew I could illustrate better than I could stage a photo, but I was intimidated to sit down and apply graphite to paper again. It's a perishable skill, (for the record, drawing is a Skill NOT a Talent, there's a difference and stop mixing them up, or I'll have to poke you in the eye!) Then Peter Galbert's book arrived on the scene and changed the meta of what a good looking woodworking book can look like. Around the same time I started following a gentleman named Roland Warzecha in his quest to faithfully rediscover medieval sword and shield combat styles. He is writing and illustrating a book on the subject and his work is just fantastic.

For the last 20 years I hadn't done much more than doodle, A gesture drawing, a cartoon face, a bunch of measured drawings. Most of my agglomeration of art supplies had been donated to my children's explorations, but they could be replaced. Mostly I was intimidated by my loss of skilled practice. My eye knows what it wants, what to look for in something satisfactory, I am a very tough and detail oriented critic, especially versus myself.

I sat my ass in a chair and started working at it again. Eventually it's the only option left. I always had a bit of a sketchy style before, but I'm working harder on cleaner lines and solid contrasts now. Finally things are really starting to fall back into a rhythm, I can ease myself into the flow state I used to be able to call at will and I'm starting to turn out work I don't absolutely hate in the end.

If you put it down, you can get it back, you might have to fight a bit, but it's possible. I would say this crosses all hard won skills, drawing, writing, woodworking . . .

If I find the time to re-learn how to play guitar I'm worried I might start to see my acne return!

Damn, then I'd have to poke myself in the eye.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Small Tool Storage Solution Prototype

It had been one of those weeks. Family medical crises, waiting rooms, playing taxi driver, and phone calls, my god the phone calls. By the middle of the week I was feeling more than a little restless and stuck in my head. It was almost 9:00 at night, the sun was just thinking about setting, I turned to my wife and said something like,

"Since everything seems to be under control at the moment, I think I'd like to go out to the shop for a bit. I'll probably just clean up and organize something. Does that sound OK?" 

"Yes honey. That's fine. Go do your thing." 

I flipped on the lights, fired up the fans that circulate the summer humidity, and started putting away errant tools left out. I vacuumed up shavings and sawdust from the floor and started moving stock around one the lumber racks. I started moving a pile of thin 1/8" and 1/2" thick pine I had leftover from resawing 1x stock and I had a thought. 

This was going to be more than just a clean up night. 

Top tray of my tool chest

Middle tray of my tool chest.
I love working out of my traditional tool chest, but I had been gathering clutter in a couple areas and it has been driving me crazy. Pencils, pens, rulers and dividers form a huge golumpus mass in the top tray, and I've never been happy about my mixing of screwdrivers, pliers, nippers and spokeshaves in the middle tray. I never intended it, it just one of those things that happen, but the thin, resawn stock I was holding suddenly seemed like the answer. 

I pulled everything I wanted out of the tool chest and laid it out on the work bench. 


I watch a lot of maker videos in a year, but less woodworking videos than you'd think. I feel like I get more from videos by blacksmiths, replica prop makers, 3D printing gurus and backyard mechanics. Looking outside your chosen genre brings fresh ideas and perspective to your work. Earlier that day, sitting in an ICU waiting room, I was binging Adam Savage's "One Day Build" videos from tested.com particularly one about file storage and his rolling pliers stand.  

Adam buys into a tool storage system he calls First Order Retrieval or F**k Drawers. I cannot say I agree with his views. I prefer a more minimalist approach, but apparently I was failing that in at least 33% of my tool chest till space. For a while I had considered just screwing a plastic cup to the wall by the pencil sharpener, but that only addressed a part of the problem. 

Then I thought about how my friend Tom Latane stores his scrolling pliers in his blacksmith shop. The stock in my hands was a catalyst and with a couple quick gesture drawings in my shop sketchbook and I started moving forward.


























A very satisfying little project, took about three hours sketchbook to lights off. I chose not to break down the build here for a couple reasons. My daughter asked for one of her own right away and I think I can improve on the concept with slightly different materials. Also I want to get better at video: shooting, editing, all the things, and I believe you get better by jumping in and doing it, making mistakes and doing it better.  Since I have another to build I thought I'd shoot my own version of the Tested One Day Build video. That will show all the build decisions and details and should be in the works in the next week or so.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Something Special

It's easy to forget when you don't have someone of high school age in the house but it was recently Graduation Season and Mrs. Wolf and I were happy to see our middle daughter clear this life hurdle. Two down one to go. We also had one of out God-Daughters graduate and talking with her a little bit before her party Mrs. Wolf asked what she wanted as a present. "Nothing much, just something special."  No pressure there right?

Talking later I told my wife it was no problem, I had made a simple pine dovetailed box with an inlaid walnut racing stripe and ended giving it to another God-Daughter several years ago. I could just spend a day in the shop and repeat the exercise. Looking through the modest wood stash I keep, I couldn't find a nice enough pine board.

I did find a reasonable board of red oak. So I made my measurements, cut the board into smaller pieces and started cutting the dovetails on those pieces. I know lots of people make a big deal out of dovetails and there are plenty of people like me who take them as just another joint to cut. Personally I find accurate mortise and tenons by hand to be more challenging. But sometimes even the simple things are a struggle.


Three out of four corners fit together like the should. Nice tight joints. The fourth . . . .I'm still not sure where I went wrong. A combination of slipping while marking out and flipping the board inside out. I was sure I checked my triangle but whatever. Off by nearly a quarter inch for the center two tails, there's no saving that respectively. Not for something that's a gift. Not for something special.

Back to the stack and I found a small 1x6 by six foot long board of box store African Mahogany I'd picked up for who knows why. It was a bit buried and I hadn't seen it the first time. I did zero documentation of the build, but it's pretty straight forward. I dovetailed four sides. attached a bottom, then rip sawed the box in two parts.


I edge glued a lid with a half inch of overhang all around and used a complex moulding plane to shoot a profile around the edge. I attached it to the top half of the box with pocket screws.


 I used a second complex moulding plane to shoot some mouldings I then mitered around the base. Inset and pre installed the hinges which I then removed and finished the box in two halves.


I used a half dozen coats of garnet shellac followed with a dark colored paste wax for the outside. The interior got a good schmear of The Anarchist's Daughter brand Soft Wax. The hinges got reinstalled, and I added a chain and a small jewelry box hasp and padlock to the front.


I wasn't able to go to the graduation party and see her receive the gift, but Mrs. Wolf told me there were tears and joy. I guess we hit the mark with something special.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf