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Almost one year later

Posted on September 30, 2012 at 9:40 PM

I know its been almost a full year since my last post on this blog. Things have been very busy though, and I have not been idle. Although once again I find myself in almost the same spot one year later. I am busy turning a bunch of little stuff getting ready for Chirstmas and Chirstmas shows. Also, due to commissions and other things getting in the way, I have actually acomplished fairly little on my own personal projects, like my spice cabinet. To see what I am working on, please stay posted and check out the link to my blog and projects in 'Current Project' tab.

Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat!

Posted on December 8, 2011 at 6:25 PM

Well, Christmas is almost here, and I have spent the last month turning lots of little projects to get ready for Christmas and Christmas shows.

I am not generally into turning a bunch of little items, or even into smaller projects, but at this time of year for the shows and stocking stuffers, its a must.  So I have added another photo album to the gallery to show the Christmas and general gift stuff that I have/can make.  Most of it I will have some on hand or can easily make upon request.

My rant on dovetails, their use and misuse.

Posted on September 30, 2011 at 2:10 AM

I am going to use dovetails in my spice cabinet. *I am going to spend hours dovetailing*. I estimate when I am all said and done, there will be somewhere close to 100 dovetails in the overall project. Almost all of them will be in the drawers, half-blinds for the front of the drawer, and through dovetails for the rear of the drawers. Now I have not finalized the drawer layout yet, but I am thinking 5 banks, 11 drawers, average 8 per drawer and that’s 88, plus the carcass that’s another 20 ish (again, not yet decided, this will come about during the layout phase), so that’s just over 100.

In my previous spice cabinet, I used through dovetails in the carcass, so that means when I put on the moulding on the top, the tops of the tails are visible from the top. I used pine that I dyed dark drown, so they don’t really stand out, no problem. I have decided to change that this time. I am going to use half-blinds, that way the top will be solid maple figure, and the moulding will cover the DT’s. I don’t want the dovetails to distract from the wood. And that brings me to my first point. Using the dovetail in a design.

I firmly believe that the proper use of design can make or break the final look of a project. You can make it very complex and intricate, and even do every step very well without mistakes. But if the design is not solid, it is still not going to look right. The same can be said for dovetails.

When I first started hand cutting dovetails, I had it in my mind that dovetails were the apex of woodworking, and if I could incorporate hand cut dovetails in my woodworking, everything would be that much cooler. I was wrong. It dawned on my one day: No matter how good my dovetails are, there are times when they should not be seen. Not only should they not be seen, but even their use in certain situations can ruin the look of a project. One of the features of dovetails, is that they are very busy to the eye. You cant help but to look at them, and if you have something else going on, like inlay or stinging, or moulding.. Basically anything else that you want to be seen, then the use of dovetails will essentially take away from the project. Dovetails compete for your attention, and they don’t share well with other features. See below, this is a small music box that I made, I used contrasting woods, the dovetails work, they are the ONLY feature. Then the cherry Bible box below it… I used half blinds, so that I had a clean front and nothing to distract from the inlay. If I had also wanted to inlay the sides, I would have used mitred corners.

 

Using dovetails properly takes time, and lots of research. Look at lots of historical and antique pieces.

Second point. LISTEN EVERYONE!!! I HAVE COME TO PROCLAIM THE TRUTH!! DOVETAILS ARE NOT THE CENTRE OF THE WOODWORKING WORLD!!! Did that shake your world? Did I just turn it upside down? The hand cut dovetail is sometimes held in such high regard, that everything else gets passed by. There are countless DVD’s, books, magazine articles, all dedicated to this one process. WHY? Why? Because there is such a fascination for them. Its like they have this mystical power over hand tool woodworkers. Everyone oh’s and ah’s at the dovetails.. well, Im here to tell you, its just a simple magic trick. Just like good dovetails cannot rescue a poor design, they also cannot cover for poor workmanship. You can practice and practice all you want, you can become the worlds best dovetailer, but if you don’t have the other skills that go along with them, what’s the use? And that brings us to my third point..

Third Point: It is not as hard as you have likely been lead to believe. Oh, trust me, you can screw them up so many ways, and if you don’t have the BASIC skills, you are not going to do it well. But that is what DT’s are comprised of… basic skills. Do you have trouble when you are cutting your dovetails with the saw keeping the line? You don’t need more practice cutting dovetails, you need more practice sawing. Do you have trouble chopping your waste or pairing? You don’t need practice chopping dovetails, you need to practice basic chisel skills. Do you mess it all up when you are transferring you pins to tails, or tails to pins? Well… again, more practice marking. Dovetails are the combination of a bunch or skills. And if you fall apart on one of them, it will show in the end.

Ok, so I think I have beaten down on DT long enough. I started hand cutting dovetails just under three years ago. In that 3 years, I taught myself how to do it, I learned ALL the mistakes the hard way. And I figured it out. I prevailed. And in the last 3 years, I estimate that I have cut somewhere around 3000. I love cutting DT’s, its fun, its relaxing, they look really cool. BUT… I have learned that there is SO MUCH MORE to woodworking than focusing on one little aspect. They are worth taking the time to learn how to do, and how to do them properly.. but this goes with just about everything else in woodworking. Hand planes, hand saws, sharpening… these are all skills that I have started to value more and more

I am going to spend hours dovetailing…. And when you look at the final project… you are not going to see a single one of them. Well… until you open a drawer and look at the side. But then again… who cares what the side of a drawer looks like? Oh wait… I do.

More prototypes

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Here is another small box with inlay that I made as a prototype for the class at Lee Valley in Jan.  The box itself is quite small and very easy to make.  It takes about 2 hours total construction time using only hand tools, but the inlay takes quite a bit more.

Since making the tea caddy, I have really gotten into inlays, I was lucky enough to be able to visit someones house that was full of english antiques.  They let me take some pictures.  This is an awesome piece.  Made from solid QSWO, walnut banding and then the shells and fans in the door panels.  I took some close ups of the shells and have even made a few.  Here is my latest and best.  I took me three tries to figure out how to do it, and I am very happy with the results.  The background is curly maple, the shell is cherry, the 'inside' of the shell is QS cherry and the edging is plain maple.  Since this worked out so well, I am going to try making a few out of some burl venners and some crazy grained stuff.

 

 

Lee Valley class

Posted on August 17, 2011 at 10:35 PM

Here is a picture of a hand tool project that I am going to teach at Lee Valley in Jan 2012.  Its a nice little box, that is quite easy to make, but the fun is all in the lid.  Its a veneer oval fan.  I love those things. 

Shellac

Posted on August 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Those who know me, and have woodworked with me at all will know that I love shellac. It’s my favourite finish. I love everything about, even its smell. I love amber shellac, blond shellac, and most of all, I love cutting the shellac myself. It gives me the feeling that I am that much more involved in the making of my project.

 

Cutting shellac involves taking a measure amount of flakes in weight and dissolving it into a measure amount of alcohol by volume. The standard is 3 pounds of flakes into 1 imperial gallon of solvent. That is what is called a 3lb cut. Of course most people are not going to make that much at once. It’s a good idea to reduce the amount to be only what you are going to use. Reducing the amount but keeping the same ratio. When spraying shellac yourself, it’s a good idea to have it cut to about a 1 to 1 1/2 pound cut. If you have ever used shellac and its different cuts then you will know that 1lb cut to 3 lb cut is very significant. One other thing to consider is the alcohol that the flakes are dissolved into evaporates VERY fast, so if you are brushing, you have to move quickly. Because of this, I prefer to brush with a thinner cut than 3lbs.

 

I was recently asked what cut I use, and the method that I use to do it. My response, I don’t know what my cut is. I don’t care. Its shellac, it does not matter. I have found that I like a certain texture, rather than a certain cut. And this is because I don't know what my cut is, so I don't know what cut I like. Basically, here is how I got to that. I wanted about a 1.5lb cut. So I used rough math to get there. I wanted about 500ml of finished shellac that I could use. So. 1 imperial gallon is about 4 metric litres. 500 ml is 1/8th of that. So to get the ratio right, I will need 1/8 of 1 1/2 lbs. This is about? oz? No clue. So I bought 1/4lb of flakes. Which is already 1/6th. But I need an 1/8 of 1 1/2, that’s too much flakes. So I put 3/4 of the 1/4 into a mason jar, and them filled it about 7/8 full with solvent. I let it sit for a day for all the flakes to dissolve, strained it and tested it, if it was too thin I added a few more flakes, if it was too thick I added more solvent. That is why I only filled the jar 7/8; it gave me 1/8 of wiggle room.

Everyone on the same page?  Great.

Bench is all done.

Posted on August 8, 2011 at 10:35 PM

I am all done my work bench. 

Its made of spruce 2x4's and where the vice is and all the dog holes it is all ash.  It was cheap, easy and fast to make.  Fast as in about 10 hours total working time.  It needed to be fast so I could get back to work.  Because that is what a bench is all about, using it to make stuff.  I think that there are far too many people spending way too much time and money on their work benches.  Its a tool, its also a tool that you can make, its going to get beat up, and used, and abused.  Its going to get cut, and gauged and chopped and glued... and you can always repair it... or make a new one.  If you grow out if it... make a new one.  If you change your wood working style and it does not work for you any more... make a new one.  It can be modified, fixed, patched.... but hey, thats just me.  I would rather be working on then bench, than working ON the bench.

Anarchy RULES!!!

Posted on July 27, 2011 at 11:11 PM

Thats right... ANARCHY RULES!!  Not the kind you are thinking.  I am reading a new book, and if you are a wood worker you might have heard about it.  Its called The Anarchists tool chest"  It goes through the hand tools that are essential and the ones that are not.  Very good book.  Written by who I think is the best woodworking author right now, Chris Schwarz.  Its funny, its to the point and its very informative.   I would not say the book has changed my life at all, but it has really given me alot to think about. 

I have been obsessed with hand tools for about two years, and I have always wanted some panel saws.  And with quiting my job and getting one at Lee Valley, and doing all that I can to better myself as a woodworker, I decided the time to get a panel saw was now.  So I did some hunting and I found some old saw (cross cut and rip) in great shape, so I bought them.  I like them.  I like them so much, that I sold my 10" sliding compund mitre saw AND my 7 1/4 circ saw.  Now I have no choice but to use a hand saw.  This move will also force me to learn how to sharpen hand saws, which I am really excited about.  ALSO... having my mitre saw gone... that has free'd up one of the walls in my shop, and I am almost done making my first work bench.  Pictures to follow in a day or two.

Now when ever I am in my shop, I keep looking around... "Is there anything else I can get rid of to make woodworking more simple?"

Tied the knot not knowing that I not know.

Posted on June 5, 2011 at 12:18 PM

All done the knot box.  I then fumed it again and then put two coats of light walnut danish oil on it.  I generally dont like oak, but fumed and then with this oil on it, it is a really nice warm brown.  The colour gives it that look that old, old oak has.  The kind of colour that looks like age and not dyes or stains, it looks natural.  I really like it.

Since that is done, I have turned my attention to Frank and Heidi's wedding present.  I bought a chunck of QS black walnut, I then used a Veritas low angle jointer plane to joint the two surfaces, then (ssshhhhh, dont tell anyone) I had it run through a thickness planer to true up one side.  Once I got it home, I started to make some shavings and dust.  Its progressing very well and I am super excited to see what it is going to become.

Turnings and musings

Posted on May 18, 2011 at 10:26 PM

Ok, so I am addicted to turning pens.  Its fun, and they look awesome.  And its fun.

I just added a new page for pictures, and it will have pens and turning in it.  Today I turned a bocote pen and made it into a gold baron rollerball pen.  I love it.  The colour of the wood looks perfect with the gold pen.  The gold is almost the same colour as the light parts in the wood, and the black trim on the pen is great, because the wood has lots of black highlights as well.  This is one of my favorite pens so far.  Did I mention that I was addicted?  In the last 3 or 4 weeks, 3 I think, the bocote pen is the 26th pen that I have made.  So, please buy one, then I can make more.


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