Saturday, September 25, 2010

Barstools project Completed

I had the phone call yesterday I've been waiting for from Niagara Upholstery here in Las Vegas to tell me the work was done.  I picked them up this morning and the work John did was excellent.  Definitely will use him again and recommend his work to anyone.  Here are a couple of shots of the completed stools, I'm pleased with the results.  The over-all height is about 42" with the seating being approximately 16" square. Top of the cushion is at 32" which should be just right for my clients counter height.

3/4 View showing the grid and footrest
Head on View

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making a Spokeshave

I've always been intrigued with the thought of making my own tools, sure, we woodworkers often make jigs to help build projects but making a tool is another thing.  At the beginning of this year I used a gift certificate from Lee Valley to buy their small, spokeshave kit.  I regularly use a metal Stanley #151 in my work to ease corners and put chamfers on the ends of pieces but thought that a small, wooden bodied spokeshave would be just the right challenge for my first, shop made tool.  Here's a picture of the final result:

I made it out of 2 pieces of Chakte Kok with a strip of Australian Lacewood in the middle.  In retrospect, the Chakte Kok may be a little soft as it chipped ever so slightly at the ends of the wear strip.  An advantage to this kit is that it came with enough of the brass wear strip to make another spokeshave body.  I used water stones to sharpen the blade and the cut it makes is nice.  There will be a learning curve to using this though.  I'm accustomed to pulling a spokeshave towards me but am finding that this works better when it's pushed away.   This project was pretty time consuming and required lots of thought and precision.  I worked on it between other projects and enjoyed the process -- even when I'd make the occasional mistake like grabbing a 7/32" bit instead of a 7/64"! What the heck, a little dowel, a little epoxy, and you'd never know it happened.  

After gluing the blank together you need to drill and tap holes for the adjustment screws to thread into the wood.  Obviously, these must be perfectly square and aligned to the body.  The kit even supplied the tap needed.  In this first picture, the holes are drilled and taped and I'm preparing to cut out the angled section for the ware.  The tape was to see the line better, I made a series of cuts with the dovetail saw which were then chiseled out.
Cutting the Ware
Once the ware was correctly sized the next step was to insert the blade into the body. It needed to be recessed so that it was flush with the bottom of the body.  You can see the brass piece that will become the wear strip at the front of the blade.
Blade recessed into the Body
Next was to fit the brass wear strip in front of the blade.  The ends are dovetailed into the body at about 10 degrees and the strip is also filed to a 45 degree angle to match the ware.  Once the clearance between the blade and wear strip was correct holes were drilled and the entire wear strip was filed and shaped to fit flush into the body.
Wear Strip Installed

Now comes the final cutting and shaping of the spokeshave.  I learned a technique where you use a glue stick to attach the pattern to the wood, it's very easy to remove with a scraper.  I also drilled holes for the area where you put your thumbs when using the shave.  Much easier to drill a radius than it is to cut one, a forstner bit worked well for this.
Pattern in place, ready for the Bandsaw

After filing and sanding to get the final shape, one that felt good in my hands I used the 3 part, top coat finish I use on my furniture.  First coat wet sanded with 220, followed by successive coats with 400 and 600 grits.  After honing and sharpening the blade it was time to test it out.  Here's a couple of photos of the results on a piece of hard Maple.  I'd suggest taking this on for your first, shop made tool if you should get the urge!  Glad to answer any questions if you run into a problem.
Rounding over the Edge

Chamfer on the End

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finishing Time

     When you work towards this part of the project it gets quite rewarding.  Now is when you can tell if your planning, scraping, and sanding achieved what you were after.  Must admit that I'm happy with what I see.  Much of the grain in the Maple actually looks like marble and even though most folks won't notice, it excites me!  This morning I sanded in the second top coat with the 400 grit paper.  Each coat takes about an hour to apply and needs to cure for 24 hours before the next is applied.  Tomorrow will be the first of two additional coats with 600 grit paper which will be followed up by the final coat applied with denim.  In the photo you can see the two footrests and grid assemblies which will be attached after the denim coat.  They're resting on the seat cushions.  After my doctors appointment tomorrow I plan to go to Tandy to pick out the leather for them.  Finishing items like stools or chairs is pretty time consuming because of all the right angles where stretchers meet the legs.  Terrible places for the finish to collect and leave a rough spot that needs to be removed later with a little bit of turpentine.  Wipe, wipe, and then wipe again -- I'm anxious to get these finished and delivered.  I really like the way the polished copper and the Chakte Kok grid and back go with the Maple.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Philosophical

     There were two things that happened recently that have made me somewhat philosophical as I look at this woodworking I enjoy so much.  Maybe I've just had too much time to think as I lay on the couch, icing my knee, and keeping it elevated so that this swelling will go down once and for all and I'll be back to being somewhat normal again.  In any case, here's the deal.
     In a recent newsletter from Fine Woodworking they talked about how computer controlled woodworking is coming to the small home and professional shop.  Just like any other technology the price has come way down.  This opened a discussion as to whether or not we (fine woodworkers) would embrace it or say that it  belongs in manufacturing only.  Several had put their two cents in and I'm still deciding if I want to or not.  Technology is pretty much about doing things faster, repetitively, and accurately -- bottom line for me is GREED!  One person made the point that if we can produce things quicker we are also using our natural resources up quicker which really goes against the whole green movement.  My personal feelings are that the process of designing and making "stuff" is what brings satisfaction.  Saying that though, I also realize that to make money you need speed and efficiency and technology can give that to you.
     The other thing that happened is that a couple of my neighbors came over and asked how long I've been working on the stools.  In spite of the movement limitations caused by the knee surgery I told them about 40 hours.  Now that's quite a while, especially to the 20 somethings who are accustomed to the microwave society and instant everything.  They did admire the work though.
     Here's a little photo essay to help illustrate some of the process.  I'm currently fitting the curved backs to the square uprights of the stool.

Dovetail Saw and Flush Saw used to cut an angled notch.

Back is carefully laid out and notch is pared to match the curve
of the back using spokeshave and chisel. Tape is used to locate
the center of the back in stool.

     The final steps were to drill the holes in the back and then counterbore them for the maple plug that will conceal the screw.  You'll notice that the back also has a couple of  wash coats of shellac on it to seal wood since the Chakte Kok dust can actually be used as a bright, red dye.  Next in line is the finish of the stools which will be done after final scraping/sanding and forming chamfers on the edges.  After the oil has dried overnight the backs will be epoxied and screwed on, maple button epoxied to cover the screw head and then chiseled flush.  Finally the top coats (5-6) will be hand sanded in to achieve the finish I'm somewhat known for and ...... oh yeah, still need to get the leather and upholster the seats -- whew!!

So, could a batch of computer operated machines have done this faster?   Probably, would the project mean as much to my client?  I'd like to think not.  The appeal of artfully designed objects is that they are unique and tailored to meet what you like.  You're not going to walk into your neighbors house and see the exact same thing.  Just like I used to customize cars and motorcycles so that they were one of a kind and unique to me and my personality.  Faster is not always better, when I look at our society in general I always remember what Diane once said: " even though we have hundreds of labor saving devices, no one seems to have time for anything anymore".  Okay, guess it's time for an ibuprofen and leg elevation!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

How Many Clamps does it take ...........?

     The usual answer to that is "one more than what you have"!  I was so lucky and blessed to have these clamps donated to me from Bob, I mean, they were exactly what I needed complete the laminations for the bar stools.  Wonderful, heavy duty clamps unlike the majority of what you find these days that flex, slip, and just don't grip.  Most of my own clamps are those that I've picked up through the years from school shops that have gone by the wayside as well as long established woodworking shops that have had to close.  They may weigh a ton but boy do they do the job.  Here's what I'm talking about:

Seat Back Lamination Jig
The jig took about 10 hours total to make but works well, I've got my fingers crossed that my client will decide to have me do 4 more chairs and a dining table for him as well.  I just so happen to have enough Chakte Kok and Maple pieces milled down for 5 more backs like this.
     Each back consists of 4 pieces, in spite of the swollen knee and foot I was able to stand for the time it took to glue them up early this week when the weather was so cool in the morning.  Temperature makes a difference in how much open time you have with the Plastic Resorcinol Glue.  The process is to use a small roller, apply glue to both sides of each piece (except for the front/back), sandwich them together, wrap them in wax paper, and stick them into the form.  The biggest improvement on this jig is being able to get clamping pressure on the bottom of it.  This was accomplished with the holes in the male portion and the deep F-clamps.  Once the pieces are in the form I lay the 2 bar clamps across the top and start to bring them together.  Under the F-clamp in the center is a center line I use to keep things lined up.  I've found that it's best to start from the center and then work out to the outsides.  They all need to be tight but you have to keep in mind that they also slide against each other as they're forced into the curvature.  Once everything is tightened in sequence I let it dry at least 24 hours, no sense rushing it.
     Both of the backs are done and one edge has been scraped of glue and hand planed square.  My next step is to bring the other side parallel on the tablesaw but I'm afraid I don't have the stability in my leg yet to operate the saw safely.  Sure am glad my client hasn't put a deadline on this project.  Bending wood is a cool process.  As you can tell though, it's not a quick and easy one, hey; if it was easy everybody would do it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TV Lift Cabinet -- DONE!

    In spite of being on crutches and unable to drive, last night the cabinet was completed. There was no way I could of done it without Adam's help.  He came over after work, loaded the needed parts and tools (including me!) to finish it into the van and away we went.  Thankfully, the guy who did the beautiful faux finishing on it delivered straight from his studio to the client.  Although the French Provincial style isn't one that I'd personally select for my own house I'm proud of the way this entire cabinet turned out and learned a lot from it.  That's the upside to doing one of a kind pieces, seems as if there is always something you learn that you can apply to other challenges as they come up.  When I look back at the initial sketch that Durette Studio sent for me to bid on I think it came out remarkably well!

Frontal View

Side View

     The composition ornamentation really shows how dimensional it is in this view.  Some of the largest work I've done but so much easier and quicker than hand carving all of this detail.  Adam and I installed the television as well and the mechanism from Nexus is a quiet, smooth operating piece of equipment.  When we first tried the swivel action, it seemed to stop at about 95 degrees -- not a good thing.  Ron decided to give just a bit more effort and in spite of making some strange noises the unit swiveled like it was supposed to.  After that I remembered reading in the manual that the first swivel or two may be difficult as the bearings need to set in.
     All in all, this was a good project, one I'm glad to have taken on and completed.