Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Mans Trash is Anothers Table Pt2

My table top is coming along nicely, slower than I am use to progressing on a project like this but I’m not complaining I am getting back in touch with why I love woodworking. Normally I would of none a small top like this one in a day or so with some other work squeezed in between the drying time for the glue up. But since I have no shop, and I’m doing the work with hand tools, and some hand held power tools in the living room of my apartment and in the front yard when it’s not raining, it is taking me a bit longer, which is alright with me, I’m enjoying myself.

I really forgot how nice it is to run a sharp plane over a board and hear that crisp sound of iron slicing wood, and the smell, oh the smell of fresh pine filling my nose without the distraction of grease in the air. Yes I am falling in love with woodworking again. Working with hand tools sometimes make me feel like I am a rookie again and you know what? I like that. It makes me have to stop and think before I do things, and plan more than I did when I was working with my machines. I was a good cabinetmaker but it’s a lot like being a grunt in the Army, you build what you’re told, when you’re told, and you get very little opportunity to put anything of yourself into your work. I still loved it though, same with owning my own shop. But now doing work for my wife and myself I can put 100% of me into the piece’s I build and that has me excited.

When I first gave up on the idea of have a working shop again I was more than I little depressed and I wasn’t sure I wanted to even do woodworking anymore, but I kept cleaning and sharpening my tools I even picked up some treasured planes and saws that my wife would show me when we went to the flea market or yard sales. Even us picking up that table base and her gloating me into making a top for her was her way of getting me back on the horse, so to speak. Then she said something to me that really hit home she told me that “an artist and a woodworker is what you are not what you do” that’s when I realized I don’t have to make money with my woodworking to be a woodworker and if in the future I get the chance to have working shop, that will be great, but if I don’t, I still have my wife and daughter, who both have honey do list longer than I have time to complete, and I am sure it will grow as time goes by. Now I just need to decide what’s next in my life, the wife and I are thinking about truck driving, so stay tune.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Plane Obsession

A few months ago I decide to add a few planes to my tool box. so I started looking around at yard sales and the flea market. I even mentioned to some family members that if they saw any metal planes at any yard sales they should pick them up for me, just don't pay a lot of money on them. I figured if they did buy something I couldn't use I could still save some parts from the plane. well after two months I added 15 planes to the 3 I already owned. I bought a Stanly #6 at a flea market for $20 and a #3 for $14 both in good shape. but the best deal my Son in law and daughter picked up at a yard sale was a box that had 10 planes in it for $40. In this box was a Lee Nielson block plane and a nice Stanly #51/4 and a Fowler #5 that was in pretty bad shape. and some other assorted block planes including an older Stanly block plane. I sharpened and cleaned most of the planes now. and have picked my favorites or at lease the ones I plan on keeping. the others I plan on past on to my grandsons .I thought about keeping the Lee Nielson block plane but to be honest I like my old Stanly better, I think it's just I have had it for 20 years and its like an old friend, but not to worry I plan on gifting the Lee to my father in law for his retirement gift along with a nice #4 smoother and a few hand saw that I have redone . now if could just find me a nice scraper plane at a yard sale?

Friday, July 25, 2008

One Mans Trash is Anothers Table

We were on out driving one day when I see this cast iron table base setting by the side of the road in the garbage and point it out to my wife, and my wife says to me stop! and pick that up. Now that alone cause me to jerk the car to side of the rode so fast I almost caused a wreck, mainly, because she usually deplores my occasionally ventures into dumpster diving even thought I have found some pretty interesting stuff even by her standards. I looked at her and said damn! after 25 years I am rubbing off on you. She looked back at me and said don’t get your hopes up buddy that we’ll rummage thru dumpster together, cause it’s not going to happen, I just think that it will make a nice table and as you know we do need one, so get your ass out there and grab it, then we can talk about what kind of a top I want you to make me!

I did the dutiful husband thing and I jumped out of the car and grab the base. It was a nice find and to be honest I would of picked it up anyway. I loaded it in the back seat of the car, crawled in and off we went with our new treasure. After a few miles I look at her and asked, so do you have something in mind for that piece of crap in the back seat? mocking her loving. Yes, yes I do, she said, I want you to make me a knotty pine top to match the hutch. I said pine, not pine, she said why not pine?

I said because it isn’t the best material to make a table top out of. She said “but it’s what I want”, and then said “my minds made and I counted to three”, quoting the lady on Oh Brother Were Are Thou meaning there was no changing her mind. All I said was “dang gone it you done went and counted to three”, meaning I got the message and pine it would be. After a few more miles she explained “I want a small round table with the edges rounded over, and I would like left a natural color with maybe some kind of inlay in red or something in the top. Just do your thing and make pretty”.

Do my thing? make it pretty? pine, ok I can work with this, I think. It seems when ever I build things for my own home it ends being pine. Some time in the late 80s before all the kitchen manufacture offered pine cabinets the shop I worked in started building pine kitchen cabinets, not because we wanted to work with pine, it can be a pain to work with, but because there was a market for it. We were good at it and build a lot of kitchens. Ever since then pine has seem to follow me as a material that my customers seem to chose even when I try to recommend other choices, even my wife. Lucky for her I just happen to have some 2 x 8 yellow pine under the bed drying out. Don’t ask why that’s another story.

I hand planed the 2 x 8s and glued them together trying to get them as flat as I could. What twist that is in the top I hope to take out with a sliding dovetail cleat. I left the two end boards off and after the cleat is inserted I will glue them on so that the dovetail can’t be seen. The base will be attach to the cleats with four rail bolts and ¼ 20 nuts so the top can be removed. Then with the top attached I will plane it flat and route it into a circle then decide how to make it pretty? Out of all the people I have done work for and no matter how silly she is about my skills my wife is the one person I never want to disappoint.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Information Overload

The other day I pick up some wood working magazines at a yard sale for $ 10.00, there was 167 magazines to be exacted. There were about 4 years of Wood, a few Popular Woodworking, American Woodworking, Workbench, Woodworking Journal, and 47 Woodsmith. All of these magazines I read and a few I even subscribe to, so this was a real find for me even though I already own a lot of the issues in my own collection.

Now I don’t know about you but having all that information setting there in a box was just to much temptation for me to resist, so I ended up setting up until 4 am last night pursing all them back issues till I head was bobbing and I was red I eyed, like was back in college cramping for an exam in micro economics. Needless to say I was on information overload, but I did see a few think that really caught my interest and I set them aside for later.

With ever new issue I picked up I couldn’t help but wonder how could he sell such a collection of information, I know I could never part with mine no more that I could give up my favorite block plane or some my other tools that I have had for 20 years now. I am always going back though my magazine looking for ideas or a better way to do something and most times they don’t fail me.

Out of the 167 magazines I bought there were about 80 I didn’t own the other I will pass on to another wood worker who I hope will get good use from them. Over the years I have seen many changes in the magazines and I have to admit that Popular Woodworking is still one of my favorites along with Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding. They appeal more to the work I do but I believe the other all still have much to offer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Design Journal Exercises

Every since I started my woodworking career I have been interested in design. I have taken a few classes in college in design and drafting. Although the classes touch on all the classic points of design the classes wasn’t gear to the furniture maker, but I did learn a few things.

Classes are a good way to get some basics but the way I really started to explore my design ideas came when I started keeping design journals. I once read from a architect that he keeps a journals of ideals that he didn’t like, yes don’t like, according to him it was easier to narrow down the details that you don’t like than keep track of all the things that you like. So I started a couple of journals. In one I put pictures or photos of stuff I don’t like even if just a small details in the piece, and then I would write notes on the page of why I don’t like it and why I don’t think it works and what I think I would do as an alterative to that detail. This journal over the years has come to be a big help for me to understand my own taste in design, and I suggest if you really want to get in touch with what you like start with a journal about what you don’t like.

The second journal I keep is one where I keep quick sketches and rough ideas that come to me at any time. It’s a place where if I get one them great little ideas for a table I can jolt it down for a later reference. I don’t worry about making it a finished drawing I just want to preserve the idea at this point. I also keep this one by my bed side, because believe it or not some of my best ideas come to me in my sleep, so I keep it close at hand that way when I wake up and record my idea. This is where I go when I start a design job after I have heard what the customer wants just to see if I already have something in my book that will meet their need, and if I do I develop it from there. Most of these drawings are crude little isometric drawings that don’t show a lot of detail I add that after I have a feel for the finished piece

My third journal is one that I keep pictures of other peoples work, and other thing that catch my eye from magazines. If I’m out and have my camera I might take picture of architecture elements I find appealing, sometimes I like to use them in my designs. I really like trim work in old houses and since I spent most my life as a trim carpenter I am always on the look out for great trim work. This journal can grow very large if you’re not careful so I divided mine up in to different pieces I keep tables in one and beds in another volume and so on it makes it easier to find what I’m looking for that way.

After I have designed a piece I usually keep it in a file on the computer along with any other finished drawings I have. That way I have my customer drawings or sales drawings, then my working drawings, and cut list, time sheets, material list, and my building notes all in one file.

Over the years these are some of the tools that have helped me to become a better designer. I still read every thing I can and have started studying a lot of the older pieces of antique furniture and taking a harder look at the things that I said I didn’t like, because I am finding that some of the things that I didn’t like 15 years ago I find very pleasing now and I guess age really doe’s change one’s out look and I wouldn’t even remember that I didn’t like most of this stuff if it wasn’t or my journals.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Work Bench Saga Part 1

The trouble with a two dollar work bench is some times you get what you pay for! Now I know I really didn’t waste the two dollar I spent on the work bench top I bough from the auction, because of the wooden screw vice that was with it, but as far as the top goes it will never be the work bench of my dreams either.

First of all it looked like some one had a nail driving contest in the top, I have invest several hours in to the removal of ever kind of nail from tacks to ten penny commons and didn’t seem to put a dent in them.

Second the top is a little on the short side coming in at 53 “ after I cut off the jog from the tail vice that was missing when I got the top.

All this didn’t dissuade from resurrecting the top into a usable workbench, it will just be one I use for power tools more that hand tools. The condition of the top did give me some problems but I decide to flip it over and use the underside as the work surface. This surface was quite uneven from when they originally glued up the top, they planed the top side, but left the bottom willy-nilly, with some joints being as much as a ¼ inch difference in height. This would have been a lot to hand plane and I don’t own a scrub plane so I needed to come up with a way to dress it down this using my Delta 13” lunchbox planer. The top is 18 “wide so the first thing I did was to cut it in one of the glue joint giving me two sections that would fit though the planer. Then I made a sled for it because the top wasn’t in the best shape from all the nails and so I could shim it if I needed it to take out any twist, surprisingly the top was flat. I took several shallow cuts with the planer because the maple was very hard and after I had a uniform surface I glued the sections together again. I left the extra length from the tail vice on it because my plane tends to snipe a bit. I will cut them off after I square up the ends, and I plan making some breadboard ends that I will be attach using a free floating ½ spine and a couple of lag bolts. I will also build a tool tray and install a nice vice I got at the same auction for $5 dollars. The base will be made from some yellow pine I got at Home Depot in their cull bin I pick up 11, 2 x 8 x 4’ for $1 a pieces so when its all said and done this bench should cost me about $25 dollars. Now maybe this bench isn’t my dream workbench, but it’s already starting to feel like an old friend and while everyone and their brother has try to give be some other purpose for this old top I think it’s a lot like me and still has a few more years of working with wood left in its bones before it becomes a chopping block.