Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Recently Completed Planes and The Masters

Lately most of my post have been about woodworking projects. The clock and the kitchen island I have in process are just spare time pursuits. Plane making is ongoing and dominates the regular working hours in the shop.

Today I decided  to post about two very recently completed planes. A shooting board plane and a 650-55 "J" style smoothing plane.

This is a version of the 10-238SBP, actually it's an 11-38SBPW. I decided to put a 2.25" wide iron in this plane and in order to keep good visual proportions I made the plane 11" long in lieu of the standard 10 1/4". I like this plane a lot. These features, plus the Macassar Ebony infill added even more mass to a plane that already possessed quite a bit.


Because this customer already has a Winter Smoother with Macassar ebony and a patina'd finish on the brass parts I applied the patina'd finish on the brass parts of this plane as well.


I was so taken with this plane's performance that I may adopt this configuration as the standard infill configuration Shooting Plane. We'll see.

I've not made a 650-55 "J" style plane in quite a while. The wood in this plane is from a Walnut crotch that someone gave me at a Lie-Nielsen event in Atlanta several years ago. It was dry and ready to use when time for making this plane came around.


 If more figured domestic woods like this were commonly available I would probably use less of the exotic species.



I enjoyed watching the Masters Golf tournament last weekend. The Masters is a southern tradition like no other. The winner, Bubba Watson is a UGA graduate. If you live in the south and know about the interstate school rivalry between UGA and Georgia Tech, you would understand that this is actually quite a funny circumstance.

In jokes and jabs that Georgia Tech students and alumni tell about UGA people the subject is almost always referred to as "Bubba". So to have a UGA graduate leading the Masters on Saturday night it just couldn't be a better circumstance to have his actual name be "Bubba".

Matt Kuchar is a Georgia Tech graduate and he was on the leader board as well after play on Saturday was finished. He's seems such a refreshing and nice young man I certainly would have enjoyed seeing him win the most prestigous tournament in golf. He plays well at Augusta National so maybe there's a Green Jacket in his future. Of course if I could have hypothetically picked one golfer to win the the Masters this year it would have been Fred Couples. I was pulling for the "Old Guy" in the field.

We have a close friend that is a graduate of Georgia Tech. She often speaks about the fact that women are in the minority at Ga. Tech. The joke among the girls that attend Ga. Tech is "the odds are good, however the goods are odd", referring to the studious nature of the male students at Ga. tech.

Of course this is all in good fun and this was hardly a college golf tournament. Julie and I had the pleasure of attending the Masters in 1986, the year Jack Nicklaus won his final Masters tournament. It was an experience I will never forget.

Ron

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Kitchen Island Begins

We have wanted an island for our kitchen since we moved in our house. It's one of the many projects that was put off due to us being so weary of building by the time we completed the house and could move in. I really didn't need another item on a final punch list of items that needed to be completed prior to move in day.

 We could use some more work space in our kitchen and the island is the solution for that problem.



I looked at a couple of different ideas for the top of the island and I even went to Ikea to look at their solid wood countertop materials. They were okay but frankly I was underwhelmed and I really wanted something thicker than 1.5" for the top of the island.

I don't live close to a hardwood supplier that would have 10/4 stock to choose from. I did the next best thing and called my friend Jon Fiant. He doesn't live far from Peach State Lumber in Atlanta and he frequents their warehouse on a pretty regular basis. I asked Jon to check out their 10/4 red maple inventory on his next visit and told him the rough dimensions I was hoping to achieve on the top. Jon is a custom woodworker and also works at a large millwork shop. He certainly has the experience to act as my personal lumber shopper.

A couple of days later I got a call from Jon. He was in the warehouse at Peach State and had already scoped out 2 boards of 10/4 red maple. One was 6 3/4" wide and 11 feet long and the other was 7 1/2" wide and 12 feet long. I was hoping for an island top at least 20" wide and about 5 1/2 feet long so I knew these boards should yield the top with some left over.

2 days later I sent my youngest son Marc on a trip up to Jon's to fetch the boards home. I knew handling the 10/4 boards was going to be physically taxing and my eldest son and family were due in for a week long visit. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have my son Daniel help me with the heavy lifting of these boards. Don't get me wrong I wasn't taking advantage of Daniel's presence, he was a willing participant and actually quite excited by the prospect of helping me with this task.


With the boards cut into pieces approximately 6 feet long we jointed one face and the edges. The edges needed to be refined with a jointer plane in order to get an exact fit and flat glue up. There were two joints in the glue up. We made them one at a time wiping away the excess glue.



The next day we were faced with the dilemma of how to process the top surface of the glued up blank. I explained to Daniel that we really had 3 choices. We could do it by hand, but I don't really have a jack plane set up for heavy material removal, we could travel to Bo' Child's shop in Barnesville and see if he would run it thru his Martin planer, or we could build a router sled and do the rough removal with that tool. We were both intrigued with the idea of building the router sled so we found what we needed in my wood storage area to cobble together two accurate rails and enough birch plywood for the sled. Couple hours later we were ready to surface the top of the glue up.



The router sled worked quite well and after two passes we were ready to work the surface with hand planes.



Daniel cut the top to length with a hand saw. A couple of years ago I was in the NWA showcase in Saratoga Springs, NY. Adam Cherubini was there by himself setting up his bench in his booth space and I sent Daniel over to lend him a hand. He also helped Adam with a computer issue related to the camera he uses to display a closer look at his hand work. After that issue was resolved I looked over to see Adam giving Daniel a sawing lesson. He spent a while with Daniel showing him the in's and out's of using a hand saw. That lesson cam in handy for Daniel while he was cross cutting a 20" wide piece of 2 5/8" thick maple.


Daniel is a quite capable young man. He worked in an internship program with the SCA (Student Conservation Association). Daniel would travel with a group into the wilderness building hiking trails and if they encountered a water way they built bridges out of what was there in the forest to be used for materials. A person becomes adept at building something out of nothing with simple hand tools under those conditions.  It's hard to put a value on those type experiences in a young man's life. Working in a well equipped shop was a piece of cake for Daniel.


Daniel and I took turns traversing across the blank at a diagonal. I would plane one diagonal and then would pass the jointer plane over to Daniel and he would plane the opposite diagonal across the board. We continued this process until we were taking shavings all the way across the board and then we made several passes down the length.


We used a similar system with the smoothing plane. I would plane half way across down the length and then hand the plane over to Daniel on the other side of the bench and he would continue from the middle to his edge. We basically divided the work in half and soon we had a very nicely hand planed maple panel.

This was the perfect situation for a young man to learn about hand planing. We certainly had a great deal of it to do. He didn't have to achieve the learning curve of sharpening and fettling a plane, all he had to do was to use a plane in well fettled condition. He also had an experienced person to help him during the process. It was an ideal situation for learning about using these tools.


The next day I stood the blank on end in my leg vise and cleaned up the ends of the blank.


Later that day I broke all the sharp edges and applied a generous coat of tung oil finish. The next day I applied another coat. The weather was nice both days so I positioned a window fan in front of the open front door to keep the shop well ventilated for this process.

Daniel lives in Vermont so we don't get to spend a lot time together and in this case it was the difference in tacking a labor intensive job by myself or having the opportunity to spend some quality shop time with Daniel. It was a win, win for everyone, plus the fact that we will end up with a kitchen island.

Now, what to do about a base for this hefty chunk of maple?

Ron

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finishing The Clock


Finishing pine is a precarious adventure. There are a lot of ways to go wrong in  the process and most woodworkers cut their woodworking teeth on pine and have made most of the mistakes one can make attempting to finish this blotch prone material. For this reason it requires a lot more effort than other woods. 

During my time of making furniture for a living, potential clients were always confused by the idea that making a piece from pine did not result in a cheaper overall price. Whatever was saved in materials cost was spent in the additional labor of the required finishing process.

Rule #1 when finishing pine. (1) You can't make pine look like another wood. End of story, no discussion required. If you attempt to make pine look like another wood you will look like an idiot. If you want to your project to look like walnut, make it from walnut. If you make your project from pine then other rules apply.

Distressing. (2) Pine is soft and will get beat up. It can happen now or later. You have some control over now. If your project gets a few dings and bumps during the build process don't worry about repairing them. Go with it. It's a natural thing and it will keep you from worrying about subsequent dings and knocks it will received once in service. You can enhance the distressing as it occurs with Old English scratch cover for dark woods.

(3) It's terribly blotch prone. If you are going to apply color of any kind you will need to take measures to control blotching. It's not a matter of "will it blotch". It's a matter of where and how much.

(4)  For vivid consistent color with clarity of grain, build your color in gradual layers. Otherwise you will mask the grain of the wood with thick layers of pigmented stain. If you're gonna apply thick layers of pigmented stain you will most probably have adhesion problems with your top coat and you would be just as well to paint the piece.

(5) Painting a pine piece is a very viable option and there are several ways to give a painted finish the look of age, but that's another subject for another blog post.



Step one. Apply a stain blocker. Some use a thinned coat of shellac as a stain absorption controller. The application will need to be consistent which is not always an easy thing for people without a lot of prior finishing experience. I use a solution that consist of 2 parts tung oil finish and 1 part lacquer thinner. I apply this liberally and reapply in areas that seem to absorb it. Especially areas around knots and like features. Remove the excess and you have a very consistent application. I let this settle into the wood for about 30 minutes and then I applied a Transtint dye of Honey Amber. See picture above. It's very yellow but it gives you an even undercoat color from which to begin.


When the dye was quite dry I applied an oil pigmented stain. I typically am not a fan of Minwax stains. I think they're cheaply made and don't contain as much pigment as a professional wiping stain. In this case I thought this might work to my advantage in trying to achieve an aged look on the pine. The color used was Provincial. In the picture below you will see the result. It was browner than I imagined it would be and at this point I figured worst case I'll have to paint  the thing. So I went forward confidently.


 I knew a couple coats of shellac would make a big difference. To this point the only dramatic color change was with the Transtint dye. This is as it should be. I sprayed all the parts with two coats of a 1 1/2 pound cut of garnet shellac. This toned down some of the brown from the stain and gave the parts an amber cast as you can see in the picture below.


The next evening I lightly sanded the parts with 400 grit sandpaper and rubbed them down with maroon Scotchbrite. I then applied a light glaze of a Sherwin Williams fruitwood stain. The next day I sprayed the parts with 2 more coats of garnet shellac.

For a piece that will hang on the wall and not see hard use, garnet shellac is a great finish. If you get heavy handed with this material it will window pane around the edges. This is why I like a lighter cut. I let the shellac cure for 3 days.


The rub out process was simple. I lightly wet sanded the parts using soapy water and 400 grit paper. I then rubbed the surfaces down thoroughly with #0000 steel wool. I wiped off the residue and then went over the parts with Old English scratch cover for dark woods. This colors any residue left that might show up a light color when thoroughly dry. Installing the  frame for the movement and cross shelf for mounting the coil gong was fiddly and I didn't take pictures of that process. The Hermele movement is a pendulum driven 14 day movement that chimes the hours and once on the half hour. I think this is very appropriate for a Shaker styled clock.


I finished the pine back boards with a couple of coats of clear lacquer. I like the contrast of the case to the back boards when I open the case.

The end result did not end up being the finish I pictured in my mind when I started. If I were to repeat the process there are some things I would do differently. However I'm very pleased with the results and consider the end result a happy accident. We learn as we build. I was once told "when you quit learning, you start dying".  I prefer learning.

In summary, the yellow base color plays nicely with the amber and reddish color of the shellac and the other color steps. It gives the piece nice visual activity and I've actually used this same honey amber dye on walnut and then wiped it with a dark walnut stain. It worked well and was a very interesting look. I'm of the opinion that garnet shellac gives the piece a look that clear lacquer or other top coats could never achieve.

If you think this was a very involved finishing process you're correct. I don't think the effort required to build the piece deserved any less.

Ron

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shaker Clock




Recently I've taken the time to build a clock that's been on my list of "Things I Want to Build". I've wanted to build a Shaker wall clock for some time now but I didn't want to build the clock that is the mainstream clock you've seen in hundreds of woodworking magazine articles. I decided to create a piece of my own design.

Many build Shaker styled pieces because they think of them as easier pieces to accomplish because of the simplicity. I think nothing could be further from the truth. You can't get away with bad design just because the piece is simpler in detail. In fact just the opposite is true. When the piece is simpler in scope the proportions and the exactness of build become paramount in achieving an acceptable result. A white elephant is a white elephant no matter what the style. Everyone has made a few white elephants in their time as a woodworker and that's when we learn how important the overall design element becomes in building any piece of furniture.

Pleasing proportions are pleasing proportions and no matter how well joined or fitted, things that are out of the scope of pleasing proportions are just awkward to the eye.

In this case I've used the design of the simple one door Shaker cupboard. I've made a couple pieces based on this form, This clock being the most recent endeavor. It couldn't be simpler really. Two sides made from two pieces glued into a 90 degree corner or side, a top, a bottom, a simple door and an apron board for visual interest. In this case I also included pine back boards aligned with splines in lieu of tongue and grooves. The splines serve the same purpose as the tongue and grooves and only required one milling setup. Easy Peasy if you think out the process before you proceed.



As more of your work is accomplished with hand tools you tend to take the time to think thru processes in order to ease the burden. One liberating thing about working with acquired skill and hand tools is you just set about your work and in most circumstances in the time it would take to otherwise set up machinery you'll have completed your task. Not to mention the fact that it's a more satisfying way to work.

I don't presently own a thickness planer and it didn't deter me on this project. If you can plane and measure you can certainly thickness materials with a hand plane and some components can be sized using a planing sled jig as long as the part is narrower than your widest plane.



A good 80 to 85% of the work on this pieces was accomplished with hand tools, in fact at this point I don't think I would know how to go about building anything without hand tools.

As you have probably noticed this is a somewhat unique door configuration. A two board door with the boards fastened to battens is pretty common but when you attempt to add a cut out for glass it requires a bit of head scratching to sort out the details.



I finished the case prior to leaving on a trip to meet my new grandson "August Brese Paglia". We're calling him Gus, not Augie. He looks like a "Gus" to me, at this point I've taken to calling him the" Gusling". It was hard to tear ourselves away to return home.


Below is a picture of the completed clock case. I was itching to return home and start the finishing process on this piece. The finishing schedule is quite involved and I expected to spend at least as much time finishing this piece as was required to get the project to this stage.



Next Week: A very involved finishing schedule

Ron

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cheap Chairs Eventually get Expensive

In the 15 years that I was  full time woodworker I repaired a lot of chairs. Most of the chairs I repaired were in need of repair for one simple reason. They weren't very well made chairs, therefore they didn't last very long. Chairs came into my shop that I refused to repair because I knew they were made from materials unsuitable for chair making and for this reason I knew they would not stay together for long. No need having that person put good money after bad because eventually they would need to buy better chairs. This is the point  when buying cheap chairs gets expensive. When I was required to repair a well made chair it was generally because of accidental damage. Nichols and Stone chairs only arrived at my shop because of a broken spindle caused by human error or carelessness or for some other similar reason. We have a Nichols and Stone rocker and it's as solid as the day it was assembled.

Somewhere in years past Julie and I acquired 6 Rex furniture ladder back chairs. These were hand me downs from other family members and they have stood us well. Rex furniture was a business that operated in Stockbridge, Ga, just south of Atlanta. They closed their doors many years ago but there is a lot of that furniture in the surrounding area. In all the years I was making and repairing furniture I never was required to repair a Rex chair. That speaks volumes.

Before


When the fiber rush in our chairs was breaking and looking quite worn we decided to keep these chairs and perform a refurb on them. Good chairs are expensive and these Rex chairs to were too good to replace.

One by one my yougest son Marc would bring a chair into the shop, cut out the old rush, pull the staples, sand and prep them for painting. Traditionally chairs were very often painted. Turnings show up better on painted chairs and I was reminded of this when I began painting these chairs satin black. The side chair seats received a basket weave of beige Shaker tape or lasting. Now these chairs look better than they have in years and the seat is considerably more comfortable with the Shaker tape.

After


This was a great family project. Julie spent several nights with me in the shop weaving the seats. Everyone involved received a great sense of accomplishment from this project and we got nice chairs as well. One of the arm chairs at the ends of our table was put into service elsewhere so we needed at least one arm chair. I remembered that we had two ladder back arm chair kits from Cohasset Colonials stored in the loft of the garden house. They've only been up there for about 15 years. They are nice chairs I decided it was about time to get them out and make use of them. Now we have two matching arm chairs.


Before

Julie and I assembled them, and I painted them. Last week we received a new order of the Shaker tape and decided to weave a 2 color pattern in the arm chairs.


After
All this work on chairs has sparked a new interest in making chairs. In order to get the mechanics of turning accurately sized tenons and the other processes for making leg and rung assemblies I started with making a stool. It has a red finish that I like and this two color seat combination goes well with the red frame I think.


We could actually use two more side chairs so I may cut my chair making teeth on those before progressing to a rocking chair. My friend Jeff Miller has warned me that a person can become rather obsessed with chair making. I don't know if I'll go that far.....heck I'm just having fun!

Ron



Friday, February 14, 2014

Pressing Pins and Testing a Recently Completed Winter Panel Plane, Could There be a Better Time of Year for a Winter Panel Plane?

I thought it was most appropriate that I be finishing up a Winter Panel Plane during the recent weather events. I was lucky. Our electricity service was not interrupted during the recent Ice storm in the southern part of the U.S.

This plane has the same features as the Winter Smoother I posted about just a few weeks ago, it's just a larger format plane. Macassar Ebony wooden bits and brass with a patina'd finish. The acquisition of double diffused soft box lights has me back in the game of shooting shop video. There are a couple of instructional type videos I've been meaning to shoot. Maybe the new lighting will inspire me to get those completed.

Besides plane making I have a couple woodworking projects in process at this time. Julie has reminded me that some of these projects have been, supposedly, in process for quite some time and that I need to get some of these finished. The reed in our dining chair seats is breaking down and I have one ready for re-hab. The old reed is removed and a new black finish has been applied to the chair frame. We're just waiting on Shaker Tape seating material to arrived in order to complete the new seat in that chair. I've watched several videos on this process so I'm ready to have to a go.

Back to the Winter Panel Plane:

The side Profile Picture


The Reach in and grab it by the tote picture

The overall view


 details of the toe


these views show the knob seat and the toe details such as the way the plane sides are blended into the sole in lieu of just being scabbed on.


This plane body has brass pins pressed in at strategic points in both pieces of the sole. The fit is called an interference fit, which basically means the pins are slightly larger than the holes where they are to reside. A friend I worked with many years ago would have termed this process as "end of the world stuff", in the context of making stuff that would last quite a long time.

Photo Bench


The video below shows the installation of the one of the brass dowel pins and some testing of the completed plane. Best viewing is had by changing the quality to 720p and viewing full screen.



Ron







Monday, February 10, 2014

It's Been A Hard Winter

Everyone has had their share of extreme winter weather this year. The wolf in the picture below expresses a sentiment that many of us share.


I have many friends and family that live in the north. Iowa, Vermont, Brooklyn, NY. My friend Jameel Abraham emailed today to inform me that it was -19 in Cedar Rapids this morning. I can't even imagine conditions of that type and frankly I don't want to. I'll just continue right here in Georgia, and when it's 70 degrees in Iowa in late July and it's 100 degrees here and 100% humidity then all is fair.....I guess. I dunno -19.....that's pretty extreme.

As I told some guys in Minnesota one summer......you have all summer to leave from up here.

But home is home and we all endure.....and that's the way of life.

This weather will eventually end and spring will arrive,

Ron