Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Demonstration Aftermath

This last Sunday I had a blast working with Tom Latane building staked stools based on the style found in many Viking Age digs. With four hours to work we made great progress but didn't make it to completion. We had a smallish, but very enthusiastic crowd. many stayed the entire time, asking good questions and graciously chuckling at our attempts at humor. Thank you to all who attended.

These demonstrations are a ton of work, from packing to hauling, to prepping and planing, but they are a good time and I always come home more energized to get back into the shop.

My area set up before Tom was able to arrive,
unfortunately the only photo I was able to take that day.

The fun part for me was that Tom and I didn't coordinate our techniques or tools at all. We traded back and forth some pictures of the finds and of other attempts at recreating them, but we both took our own genuine approach of turning firewood into a place to sit. I enjoyed watching Tom's choices evolve and the differences.

I was able to come home with a seat blank and three roughed out legs. The museum director is looking forward to finished photos of the work so I cast about finishing the work today. I chose the best section of oak log I had for the seat, but the nearly finished piece was too small for the average adult butt. I had already resigned myself to make a child sized chair

The legs I'd worked came in at just under 2" in places, way to chunky to look good on a child's stool. I set about reducing them down to just fat of 1 1/4".

I set up to straighten and hog off material with a jack plane. I shaved until I had four flats, not caring about making square corners, then I gave them a lazy octagonal shape.

 A pair of bench saddles is your best friend for this kind of work. A corner cut out of a waste block and butting the piece against your plane stop. Simple and effective, my favorite combination.

Then I took them to the Peter Galbert style shave horse I recently finished, I'll write about that adventure soon. I built it for the demonstration, but I've never owned one before, nor have I used one much. As is my normal I accept a new challenge just in time to demonstrate it in front of a crowd. I feel like I have a decent learning curve ahead of me to effectively use the drawshave, but the horse is a beautiful thing to work using a spokeshave. I used a couple of them to turn my ugly octagonal legs back into rounds.

If you look close you can see my sight line layout for the three legs. I lifted these measurements from the three legged chair in Chris Schwarz's "The Anarchist Design Book" because I really like the look he achieved and why go about reinventing for the sake of it. I modified the distances to the seat's edge, but kept the sight lines and resultant angles.

Once the sight lines are done it's set and tape down an angle gauge and start making holes.

 Then the taper reamer makes the holes bottom fat. It's just as important to follow the guide of the angle gauge with the reamer.

With the legs inserted and wedged in place the stool looked like a reject from a Jim Henson workshop. It's good the plan was to remove a significant amount of length to rein the chair back into a small child's range. I chose to make the platform around 12" off the floor.

With the legs shortened things looked closer to right again and I can't say I'm unhappy with the outcome. My nieces and nephew will love it and hopefully use it for years. I'm going to let it dry for a few more days, then sand off the fuzzies, coat it in some iron buff and follow that with some garnet shellac and dark wax.

I'll be sure to put up some finished pics in a week or so.

Ratione et Passionis.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Forest To Furniture 2017

Every year I get a couple chances to do a couple presentations at one of my favorite places in the world. The Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor in Alma Wisconsin. A month ago I fed my medieval history hobby with a presentation on "Hollywood Vs. History: The Facts Shouldn't Ruin A Good Story" It was a lot of fun, I like building these formal(ish) lectures and interacting with the crowd.

Tom on the right and me on the left. Paul Nyborg is a good friend in the middle.
He's demonstrated with us in years past but won't make it this time around.

But next week Sunday Sept. 24th. I get to do something I've come to like even more. For the past few years Tom Latane and I have partnered up in ap presentation called "Forest To Furniture" We show the process of taking logs and producing furniture from the rough parts. In the past we've tackled, general techniques, joined stools (to varying degrees of success), and a small corner shelf, (the two produced are used in the museum)

This year I'm extra excited, we are working on a three legged staked stool based on patterns found in numerous Viking Age archaeological digs. Here's a LINK to google images. It's a simple stool in a staked furniture fashion but I rarely like the reproductions I see done. Last spring I revisited the form myself using Chris Schwarz's work on staked furniture as a guide and I was able to create a prototype I felt better about.

This coming Sunday Tom and I will go about improving on my prototype as anyone who wants to come can sit and watch us sweat and talk sawdust and anything else. The show does cost a nominal fee for the museum but the bad jokes are all free.

Please consider joining us!

Ratione et Passionis

Monday, September 18, 2017

Defiant Woodworking Syndrome.

The thing that really hooked me on "The Anarchist Tool Chest" when I first opened the book was the title to the prologue.

"Disobey Me" 

Those two words, impossible to follow one way or the other, distilled most of my attitude for this world. I was fortunate I traversed my public school education when the term Attention Deficit was only beginning to gain traction and understanding. If then were today I'd probably carry the boat anchor labels of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or Rage Disorder, and most certainly ADHD. To be clear I don't believe I'm any of these things, I'm simply more willful, emotional, and free thinking than your average bear.

Whatever you tell me might be right, but I pathologically refuse to accept things without taking my own punches and learning for myself. If I'm wrong I'm happy to admit it, but I have to find out I'm wrong first. Sometimes it takes me a long time to figure it out.

When I went to install the hinges on my version of The ATC I was mindful about the hardware I was using. I knew Chris advocates slotted screws in furniture and the best argument I've heard from him for it is "because they look right." I debated in my mind for a little bit and came to a thought that went something like this:

"F U Chris, this is a modern take on a traditional tool chest. Slotted screws are the right thing for replacing or replicating an older or period piece, but this is my take built today and I'm gonna use the phillips screws that came with the hinges" 

I've been working out of this chest nearly everyday since 2011 and at first my decision didn't bother me, but in the last six years I've changed. Maybe it was the impetus of building the chest itself, maybe it's just the natural progression of the way my mind works, but soon after I started really studying furniture and woodworking on a deeper level than what the magazines were feeding me. I started finding books recommended by woodworkers I admired and then combing the bibliographies of those books to find that source material. The size of my personal library grew, now somewhere in the range of 250 books.

And the more I've read, and the more I've paged through volumes of furniture, the more I've realized that god dammit Chris you're right, alongside the nail head, the clocked slotted screw just looks like it belongs and the rest, phillips, square, torx, or hex, they stand out like a red devil in a crowd of nuns.

A few days ago I picked up some replacement slot headed wood screws, and I replaced the crappy phillips screws, and now my obsessiveness can move on to a different victim. Oh until I have a chance to redo to redo the compartments in the bottom level of my chest. turns out over time I was wrong about them too. . .

Ratione et Passionis

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shooting Summer In The Foot

I'm going to spend the next few posts updating on cool thing that have been accomplished and do a little weather vane pointing into the future.

I have finally had time to sit down and reflect back on the past two plus months. They have been busy and productive and exhausting but they have not produced much I feel needs to take up space on this blog or in your reader feed. There has been sawdust, a lot of sawdust, but there has been no furniture nor techniques in the realm of "fine" woodworking,

It started early July with a project that was supposed to eat up maybe two weeks. We have a gazebo structure in our backyard and the previous owner build boardwalks between it and the back door, however the steps out of the back door were narrow, lacking a handrail, and it was torturous watching my Mother-in-Law step out and try and close the door behind herself. We decided building a small deck would be a safer platform for everybody and at the same time I'd complete the fencing around the yard which was 80% done. 

I interrupted my work to help my own parents expand their deck enclosure/dog run and to build a large chicken coop for my sisters new home. She was moving and needed a new place for the birds. The best part of these interruptions is that I got to spend some time working with my dad. 

Of course there are the standard interruptions and hitches that happen with any home improvement project. From removing substandard outdoor wiring to having to replace the entire boardwalk, to having to figure out how to run a 12' stretch of fence, with a gate, across a cement covered area. 

The projects are done now and I can start doing something in the shop again . . . but wait, the shop is trashed, absolutely trashed. When I'm working in my shop I am meticulous, I clean up and put things away in between stages and I keep myself well organized. Apparently that doesn't happen when I'm juggling my own outdoor project and dragging a truck full of tools off to build things elsewhere. Every workbench surface is covered with tools and toolboxes, empty Menards bags and scraps of pressure treated wood, boxes of decking screws and oh I can't go on. It's going to take me two solid days to get the shop workable again.

Along the way I have to find space to keep a few new friends. I purchased a cheap no-name chopsaw to help with all the deck cutting. I gave my old one away years ago and hadn't missed it until I dived unto the construction project world again. There's not a lot of call for it in my furniture work, the cheap ones aren't accurate enough, but I still have to find a place to store it. I've also added a Grizzly 22" scroll saw, to up my marquetry game, I found it for sale used for a very good price but I haven't had time to do more than clean it up and make sure it goes. Changing blades is a trick but with some practice I'll get the hang of it. Still I have to figure out a station or a way/place to store it. 

Still all good problems to have. 

Ratione et Passionis