Friday, December 30, 2011

How Was Your Christmas?

     I sincerely hope that those of you that read my blogs that your Christmas was a wonderful occasion that you were able to spend with family and friends as we celebrate the birth of Christ.  Sometimes it's hard to keep sight of that as we open our presents to see what "Santa Claus" has brought us and I hope he too, was good to you.  Two years ago, I asked for and received the small spokeshave kit from Lee Valley.  Breanna got that for me and it was a good challenge to make it and I use that tool often.  This year I asked for a scrub plane blade from Hock Tools.  In case you're not familiar with what the heck a scrub plane is here's Wikipedia's definition:

The scrub plane is a type of plane used to remove large amounts of wood from the surface of lumber, such as when eliminating cup or twist in the first stages of preparing rough stock, or when reducing the thickness of a board significantly. Scrub planes generally have a short soles, a relatively narrow but thick blade, a very wide mouth, and a deeply curved edge (of about a 3 inch radius) to make a deep, gouging cut.

     For woodworkers that use lots of power tools, the power jointer has pretty much eliminated any use for this style of plane but since I don't use or have a jointer I can see the need for it.  After doing my internet research I decided to attempt to make my first plane.  It will be based on the Krenov style but modified/customized to suit what I think I need.  There were a few references on the construction of this plane and the fact that the traditional style plane patterned after James Krenov didn't necessarily lend itself to becoming a scrub plane.   The reason cited was the lack of a handle or tote which made it difficult to get enough power behind the tool.  Well, I found a design on a forum where there was more of a saw type of handle that I decided to use for my "plane to be".
     Here's the parts:

Starting Point
       What you're looking at is the two pieces of Walnut that will make up the plane.  I drilled a few 1 3/16" holes to begin to form the handle.  You can see the rough outline of the shape, very similar to a saw handle.  The dowel will be used to wedge the blade into the plane itself and it's pretty obvious that the blade has a radius, just like Wikipedia's definition.  This blade comes from Ron Hock who is well known for the quality of his blades, I gave you the link for his business in the opening paragraph. The long, yellowish piece of wood is Canarywood left over from my dining table and it will be used for the sides.  Last of all is the Purple Heart which will be laminated to the bottom for the sole.
Roughed out Handle
    Making the handle was interesting.  First of all, the ramp that the blade rests on is cut at 45 degrees.  Since there is a fairly large screw head that holds the blade and chip breaker together I needed to route a groove for that to fit in to.  I needed to bring it down a bit more than this to accommodate the thickness of the sole but that was fairly easy to to with a chisel.

     The width of this piece is 1 9/16" and when I gripped it, it's way too thick to be comfortable.  That's when things on the bandsaw became interesting!

Looking Like a Plane ??
     As you can see, I made the handle much thinner and that was a challenge.  There's a well known furniture maker, Sam Maloof, who had a very, unorthodox (unsafe?) method of using the bandsaw.  I've seen it in videos and he has most of the blade exposed and he makes these free hand cuts to form the arms, back slats, and other parts for his chairs.  I figured that if he could do it I'd give it a shot as well and it worked!  The next step is to laminate the Canarywood sides onto the rest of the plane, they will be pinned with Ebony dowels.  There's a slight quandary in that I don't want to spend tons of time yet with spokeshaves and files to shape the plane until I know it will function as it should.  In any case, I'm enjoying the process and that's really what it's all about.  The front of the plane will resemble an infill plane with the somewhat bulbous grip but I'm hoping for a lot of control. The primary function of this plane will be to level and smooth one side of any board that happens to be cupped or warped.  Once I have one side leveled the surface planer can be used to bring the board to a uniform thickness.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

For Connor -- He Unwrapped it Today

Step Stool for Connor

     Now that Christmas has passed I can post my blog about making Connor's step stool.  I must admit that it's much nicer than the one I made for his Mom when she was his age but you know, my skills have improved over that time.  I used machine cut finger joints to join the top to the sides and hand cut dovetails on the stretchers for the bottom.  This project was suggested by my neighbors Mom when she asked me what I was making for Connor's Christmas present.  Hard to believe, but her daughter (my neighbor) was in my first class when she was in seventh grade!
     I stayed with the theme of Walnut and Maple for this step which can also be used as a stool.  With it, Connor can reach the counters to brush his teeth and be a big help for Mom!  To make it special I found an image on Yahoo of the letter C.  I thought this was pretty cool because it's the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street and Jennifer and I watched that together all of the time.

The first step to making this was to create a template which was done on the scroll saw.  By using a guide bushing set on a router I first created the recess of the letter in the top of the step stool.  As you can see, the template was clamped to the top and then routed out.

Template clamped on, ready for Routing

     Once the outline was complete, a small router plane was used to remove the rest of the material inside the outline of the C:

Router Plane used to Complete Recess

        I had already made the C part out of a piece of Maple so it was glued into the recess and planed smooth:

     Once I got the step stool to this point I realized I should have relieved the bottom a bit just in case it sat on an uneven surface.  Now that all was assembled there is no way to cut it on the bandsaw so the only option was to use a coping saw.  Heck, I've taught hundreds of students how to use one so it was a logical choice:
Coping Saw Work
At this point I had the choice of either filing both sides smooth or else making a pattern so that a router could be used to smooth out the curve, that was my choice.

This is by far the easiest way to have two identical surfaces and contours on a project.  If this cut was only made on one surface a file, spokeshave, and sandpaper would have been just fine but if you want to insure that both profiles are identical a template is the way to go.  You can see I have quite a bit of material to remove but with the template clamped onto the sides, located by the bottom of the step stool and the center line both sides will be identical.

Template and Guided Router Bit

Now comes the hard part, waiting until Christmas for Connor to open this present.  Then I'll be able to post it on the blog.

Hope all of you that follow my blog had a Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Still Working on It!

My Ali Girl

     Yesterday morning Diane was looking through some Etsy sites and told me there was a wood working site named Two Dog Woodshop, she suggested that I have a One Cat Woodshop!  Silly as it seems she planted a seed in my mind so I scanned a photograph of when Ali was the cover girl on Cat Fancy Magazine and made it my carving challenge.  Believe it or not; you're looking at about 4 hours worth of work and it's far from perfection but ......... I feel my skill level continues to improve.
     When I'm out in my shop, fully engrossed in what I'm trying to achieve, time means nothing.  I remember conversations in our car pool as we went up the mountain to work.  Several of us were at that point of retiring and many of my co-workers were concerned with what the heck would they do all day.  You know, you can only take so many trips or hit so many golf balls.  Thank God that I have a past time that keeps me engaged and brings in some extra money besides.  Let's talk about the carving work, here it is in a better shot:

Ali Carved 12-18-2011

     I can still recall my very first exposure to carving, it was in Boy Scouts and we were told to bring a bar of soap to the next meeting.  The scoutmasters name was Bill Hinkle and he showed us how to carve a fish out of that bar of soap.  I remember him saying, when we asked how to do it, just cut away everything that doesn't look like a fish!  Sounds simple enough but there's much more to it as I'm learning.  With this carving I'm trying to give a sense of dimension and I think there's a certain degree of success.  One of her front paws is up in the air so the other one has to be brought back some, same with her rear legs. My goal is to show different layers which can be achieved by rounding over the edges and creating shadows to show depth.  A characteristic of the Oriental Shorthairs are their large ears and wedge shaped face.  Looking down at Ali here on my lap that's pretty obvious.
     Anyway, that's what's kept me busy for part of the weekend, the process that goes hand in hand with carving is maintaining  sharp chisels but that's another subject all to itself!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa's Surprise

Shh, don't tell anyone!

     Well, my current project (which is actually done) is a surprise so I can't say too much about it.  You know how it is, Christmas is right around the corner and my grandson's name starts with a C so that's about as far as I can go with my blog for now.  I like the letter C that I found on Yahoo images since it's the cookie monster and Jen and I used to watch Sesame Street together all of the time.  It's a nice, playful looking one and it's an inlay on someone's Christmas present -- sorry, that's all I can say for now but I'll post it all after Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

TV Tray Redux is Complete

TV Tray in Use
     Here is the culmination of the Design Process blog that some of you have been following.  It's been a while since we began this series on September 30th. but in the mean time I also completed a birthday present for my grandson and new studio furniture for Diane.  Things like that really don't matter because for me everything keeps rolling around in my head on how to solve design and construction problems.  In my opinion, these tables solve the problem of having a tray that can be used for eating or holding drinks and snacks for a get together with friends but yet be attractive when they are not in use.  You may remember the old TV trays, plastic, brass, and phony wood tops that you had to hide in the closet.  They only came out when needed.  This set, on the other hand, looks good just sitting there!

Waiting to be Used

     The design I was after was to have the three of them make a statement when they're together.  They can be arranged as shown, with the widest end out, or reversed with the shorter end out.  This would depend on where you keep them.  In this case they are tucked into a curved wall in our house.
     One design element that needed to be addressed is that when they are not in use, I didn't want a "sea of legs" as Diane put it.  That's the reason for going with only three legs per table.  The prototypes seemed to work and now that we've used them they are very stable.  When you look at them straight on you're not overwhelmed by that sea of legs!
To me, the tables have a sense of movement.  Angling the legs out not only added stability but also some life.  The legs taper towards the bottom and their face is beveled as well.  Small, subtle features like this is what gives them life and movement.

It's all about the Wood
For me, my design process is centered around the wood.  Black Walnut was used for the frame and the legs.  The inset tops are Zebrawood which was resawn and then book matched.  In my designs I like joinery details to show.  In this case, the leg tenons go through the top and are splined with maple to mimic the coloration of the Zebrawood.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Custom Picture Frame Molding with a Lie-Nielsen #66 Beading Tool


Completed Frame with it's Painting

     The customized frame is now complete and looking back over this project I realize how much I enjoyed creating the custom profile using the #66 Bronze Beading Tool from Lie-Nielsen.  As I mentioned, I've made scratch stocks before for my furniture work and taught students in my classes how to make them as well but this tool makes it much easier.  It's much easier to set the distance that you want the profile to be from the edge, just nice to use all around.
     When I delivered the painting I noticed how much the color and finish of it matched a dresser the client had in their bedroom.  As usual, photographs on blogs really don't do the project justice but you can see the gleam the finished frame has,  notice the left, top corner?  Another thing you may notice is how the areas that were profiled with the beading tool are slightly darker.  That's because the Smoked Poplar didn't cut as cleanly as a hardwood might but it gives a nice shadow line and adds some dimension to the frame.
     We're unsure as to who the artist is of this painting as it's unsigned.  Appears to be the master of the house talking to the kitchen maid -- maybe she broke a dish or something!  If anyone recognizes this work let me know who you think may have painted it.  Many people tend to think of a frame being jewelry for the painting and I hope I achieved that with this one.