Monday, April 30, 2012

Reeded 22 kt. Frame Completed

Reeded Frame 22 karat Gold

     After some frustrations and technical problems here is the completed frame.  I have to admit that in spite of my whining there's nothing as exciting as burnishing the gold on a frame and seeing that molten gold look. You just can't get that any other way!  I burnished the leaves, the reeds, and the sight edge.  The panel is left in its matte finish.  I then toned the reeded part only with a mixture of asphaltum and naphtha to warm up that part of the frame.  Design principles say it's good to alternate bands of matte finish with burnished finish for contrast.  I must admit, I really like the way the reeds are contoured down to meet the leaves at the corners.  To me the hand carved reeds are more pleasing to the eye than a machine cut molding.  There's a quote I carry with me but not sure who to credit it to that says: "the beauty of an object made by hand is that it has variations".
    In a previous blog entry I mentioned how we go through all the steps to create a perfect finish and then work to make it look as if it's been around for ever!  I think I accomplished that, here's a close up of one of the corners:

Corner Detail

     I don't mind the faulting in between the reeds, I think it adds to the aged look.  One thing I found interesting are the leaves.  When I scooped out the insides of them there was a undulating texture.  During the burnishing process the lower areas kept the matte finish while the raised areas became bright and burnished.  The matte vs. burnished finish is real evident when you compare the sight edge to the panel.  Now comes the tough part, thinking of putting it on the market and what to price it at.  Anyone on the hunt for a hand carved, 22 karat gold frame?  Size of the sight is 9" x 12" and the molding is 4" wide.  Hope you enjoyed this project and thanks for following along.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Science Lab Part II

Set-Up for Gilding

     Laying the actual 22 karat gold leaf on the frame is called gilding.  It's one of those things I wonder whether I'll ever master but from what I understand, it takes months or years of constantly working at it to feel confident about the results.  Add to that mix my perfectionist, artist personality and you have a process that could end up in ulcers and heartburn!  What you see is the frame with it's red clay (bole) applied.  It's on a platform that is angled so the gilders liquor (distilled water and alcohol) can run to one end of the frame and be sopped up by cotton balls.  The gilders liquor is in the center of the frame, behind it you see the gilders pad which has a book of gold on it.  To the right of it is the gilders knife used to cut the gold, and finally you see the gilders tip which is a squirrel hair brush designed to pick up the gold and lay it on the frame.
     Once the entire frame is gilded it'll look something like this:

Gilding Complete -- almost

     You can see there are several "faults", areas where there isn't any gold either because of a void in the leaf or gilder error.  An area that is tricky to lay the gold into is all of the reeds that go around the frame.  I could have used some yellow clay there so that even if the leaf faulted, the color of the frame would blend in.  Didn't do that for two reasons, first off I didn't have any yellow clay and secondly, I've decided to thin down some asphaltum to age the frames appearance.  I've attended several workshops taught by Marty Horowitz of Gold Leaf FrameMakers  of Santa Fe.  They replicate any period of gold leaf frame and are simply fabulous in the work they do.  Check out his website that I've linked.  He has a great story regarding King Louis of France and why frames have the patina and character that they do.  In days of old, when there wasn't any LED lighting in the castle to show off the portrait of the kings the purpose of the bright gold leaf was to illuminate his portrait.  As time went by, soot and ash from the candles and fireplace (torches?) would deposit onto the frame and the maids would have to clean it off so everyone could see the kings portrait.  As the years went by this created the patina we now try to replicate on modern frames.
     I've always had a bit of a problem with that because why purposely destroy something you've worked so hard to achieve?  Here's the frame after most of the faults were repaired:

Faults Fixed & Ready for Burnishing

     The shine and brilliance is what I like but .... too garish for most applications so the gold is always toned down.  The part of this process that's like magic is the burnishing process.  This is where you take a piece of agate that's attached to a stick and press down hard on the gold areas you want to bring out.  What happens is that this pressing action forces the gold leaf tight against the bole (clay) and the shine is just so cool, always reminds me of a molten ribbon of gold.  You can't get this any other way:

Hounds Tooth for Burnishing 

     I tried to get a close up view of the difference between the burnished and unburnished gold but my camera won't focus that close.  You can see the leaf I'm working on is getting some of that brilliance, the leg at the top of the picture has had the reeds burnished and you should be able to spot the difference.  I chose to lay leaf on the sides of this frame although it's not really required.  Usually there will be a flat, casein finish on the edges since it will stand up to handling better than the gold will.  Since this was the last of my gold leaf I figured might as well go for it.  Last time I checked on the price of gold it was close to $700.00 for a pack of 500 leaves; little too rich for my pension and lack of clientelee.
     In any case, this is a very time consuming process with the possibility of errors or problems anywhere along the way.  I know I can get pretty frustrated doing this process but when you start using your hounds tooth burnisher like I'm doing in the picture, and you see the brilliance of the gold you tend to forget all of the pitfalls you had along the way.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Science Lab??

You Call this a Woodshop?

     This is the second blog for the reeded frame.  Now that the kitchen remodel and the complicated Acanthus leaf carve is complete it's time to work on this frame again.  Since deciding that this will be done with what little 23kt. gold leaf I have left I realize how much more there is to this process than the Dutch gold method of gilding frames.  It really does seem like a science lab experiment more than anything else.  I've taken notes from demonstrations, read books and tons of internet materials, gotten advice on picture framing websites and still; it's baffling!
     I'm using pre-mixed French red clay and gelatin for the glue.  The basic process is to make your glue mixture and then, using a ratio of 1 part clay to 3 parts glue, brush multiple coats onto the frame.  You need to keep this mixture at what is often referred to as "blood warm" or around 100-110 degrees.  That's the purpose of the hot plate, double boiler, and Diane's (shh!) kitchen thermometer in the background.  Other things you see are the measuring cups, cone strainers, scale, etc. needed to complete the lab.  I can't help but think that the frame makers of old weren't this persnickety.  You know, more a pinch of that, a handful of that, and so on.  What ever the case, the frame now has 8 coats of clay on it.  Since this frame leans more towards the modern style I'm not going to put any yellow clay in the grooves and other areas the leaf may crack (fault) when I lay it on.  Just need to see how I can lay and improve my skill with the leaf.
     The purpose of the gesso is to seal the wood and provide as smooth a surface as possible for the clay and the eventual gold leaf.  A technique I've learned and use is to dilute some of the clay in distilled water and paint it onto the frame:

Disclosure Coat

     This is referred to as the disclosure coat and the purpose is to let you know when the surface is smooth.  Very similar to what is done when finish planing a board using hand planes.  In that case you strike a series of light pencil lines all across the surface of the board.  Now when you are doing your final smoothing work it's safe to assume that when the lines are completely gone the plane has gone over the entire board.  That's a simplistic explanation but pretty much what happens.  Same thing with sanding the frame.  I started out with a 240 grit, then when the red was gone went to a 400 grit to polish the surface.

Sanding Process

     This picture gives you an idea of the sequence.  The lower and right leg of the frame have been completely sanded.  On the left leg the process has just begun, notice the hit and miss effect of the red disclosure coat compared to the untouched surface of the top leg?

Close up of Sanding Process
     Here is a close up view of the lower, left corner.  The brushed on gesso has some irregularities and when you first begin sanding the peaks of them will be sanded away and appear white.  The lower areas remain red until the entire surface is leveled.  Once the entire leg is white it's time to use the finer, 400 grit paper.  I didn't bother doing the disclosure coat on the reeded section.  Since these were all carved by my hand I'm aware that there are some irregularities in them.  I saw a quote somewhere that went something like "the beauty of a handmade object is it's irregularities or uniqueness", or words to that effect -- I like it!

     I'm anxious to gild this frame even though I know there will be lots of frustration during this phase.  At the last West Coast Show here at the Mirage, Diane had enrolled me in a day long lecture/demo by Marty Horowitz and Bill Adair.  Want to put some of the things I learned about there into practice.  Practice, practice, and then just a bit more for good measure.  I know that's what it'll take just hope my patience and wallet hold up!

     Ended the day resting on the couch with Ali eye-balling me as if to say "why so stressed man?"

What, me Worry?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cabinets Crowning Glory

Well, here it is!

     Hopefully I haven't bored too many of you with the agonizingly slow progress and the numerous posts about this carving.  It's been quite an undertaking but, just like when I first started running those 50 mile mountain races, now that it's done I'm ready for the next one!  Just the challenge of attempting something that has the likelihood of giving you some problems; that's the appeal.  Of course I could pick this apart but I'll keep that to myself.  The top of the cabinet is about 7' from the ground so when you view the panel from "ground level" you don't see the shims and top piece.  It appears to just float in the opening.  Painting it to match the cabinets was a good call on Diane's part.  She mentioned that it has the appearance of a marble fresco you might find in an older place.

Finished with a Smooth Plane

 The last bit of traditional woodwork was to plane the back.  Yes, if any of my former students are reading this I do finish the backs of projects.  That used to be a lively topic in my teaching days, why sand the back -- nobodies going to see it?
     My standard reply was that you'd always know!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Time to Say When

     The hardest thing, well maybe not the hardest but certainly a challenge, is when to know it's time to stop.  Many times on this project I find myself agonizing over a little detail but then step away from it a few paces and the detail isn't even noticeable!  Maybe a tad more refinement of the background but we want texture to show through.
     In this picture the natural differences in the color of the wood are too obvious.  This makes the decision to paint this piece the same color as the cabinets even better.  There are some "whiskers" that need to be taken care of with a small scraper I've yet to make but other than that I better leave it be.  I'm finding that carving can be similar to finishing cement.  As you work your chisel (trowel) over the surface and want to get that last little divot out of there when; all of a sudden, splat! the trowel or chisel digs in and messes it up big time.  Unlike cement though, you can't toss a handful of wood into the divot and trowel it smooth again.
     I went on a hike this morning and really tried to visualize the movement I wanted to portray in the upper curls of the leaf.  There are several levels there and I hope they are apparent to you, the viewer.  Deja vu on painting, just like when I did the kitchen cabinets wind is now in the forecast along with a possibility of some rain!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Carving Progress -- Slow

Center Motif
     Well, I'm thinking the center motif is done and I really need to step away from it and let it alone.  The part that appeals to me the most is the curl at the top which actually seems to be the leaf just growing and curling towards the front of the plant.  When I look at good carvings the strokes are made with one or two, continuous and confident pass.  Oh boy is that ever a challenge!
     Unlike clay, which you can smash up and re-form, wood doesn't give you that pleasure.  Once it's cut you either have it or you don't.  I'm learning that the more you mess with it it generally goes from bad to worse.  Need to bear in mind that this will be at the top of the cabinets so not open for close-up scrutiny.  We've put it up in it's eventual home and Diane has planted the seed to paint it the same white color as the cabinets.  At first I was appalled -- what, paint wood but the more we talked about it the more it seems like a good option. First off, the wood is nothing spectacular (Basswood) by painting it the light should play off of the carving more.  That's her expertise, the visual aspect of what happens to things.  Another plus is then I could apply a little bit of filler to those areas I gouged too deeply.  An example of that is at the upper left of this carve.
     Have I mentioned things are going slowly --- perseverance, Rome wasn't built in a day, if it was easy everyone would do it, etc.  All of the things I used to tell my students when they were struggling with their work I'm now telling myself!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't Usually Multi-task but .......

     Currently I'm in the middle of two very time intensive projects.  One of them is the Acanthus Leaf carved panel for the newly remodeled kitchen and this is the other.  You may recall the workshop I took earlier this year from Ian Agrell, that was the inspiration for the carved panel.  I also started carving a reeded frame that I finally finished.  Here's how it looks:

Reeded Frame with Leaf

     The site size is 9" x 12" and the molding is 4" wide.  Like most picture frames the material is Basswood and it's some of the custom profile we had milled by Foster's Planning Mill.  I think I have enough 22 kt. leaf left to gild this frame.
     Why am I always attracted to labor intensive, technical things?  Doesn't matter if it's carving, gilding, building furniture, running 100 mile ultra's I rarely chose the easier things in life to challenge myself with.  There are so many steps to creating and gilding a frame and an error in any one of them can ruin the entire project.
    The step after the carving process is to gesso the frame.  Basically gesso is a a chalk and rabbit skin glue mixture that is painted on to the wood to completely seal it.  The glue  will be reactivated when the gold is applied by water which allows the gold to adhere to the frame.  Simple when you put it that way, however; it's never been simple for me.  Maybe if I did this on a regular basis rather than a couple of times a year I wouldn't  have to re-train myself each time.

     Here's the frame after about 7 coats of gesso ready for sanding.  One of the problems I'd had in the past is that the first coat of gesso would bead and seem to resist being applied to the wood.  I've had correspondence with a gilder in Seattle, Charles Douglas, and he suggested rubbing the first coat in with my fingers and it worked -- thanks!  Now if I can just figure out why the gesso wants to skin over between coats even though it's covered and the heat is a constant 100 degrees another dilemma will be solved.  In any case, I'll work on this while taking breaks from carving the panel.

Pfeil 28/6 Backbent Gouge
     The reeding on this frame was completely carved by hand so has some slight inconsistencies which I think adds to the charm and appeal.  I had purchased what is referred to as a back bent gouge and taken it to the class to learn how to use it.  After Ian showed me how and a bunch of trial and error to get an acceptable carve this frame is the result of that.
      Really beneficial to take that class, I would have fiddled around with it for a long time before getting these results.  Here's what that tool looks like, it's made by Pheil and the size is 28 mm with a #6 sweep.


Modeling the Leaf

Ready to Tackle the Bottom Leaf
     After quite a bit of careful work I'm ready to tackle the next phase of the carve which is referred to as modeling.  Now's the time to make this flat piece of wood look as if it's actually alive and dimensional.  No easy task to say the least.  Diane has been giving me the drawing lessons and I find that sometimes what I visualize in my head gets lost on it's way to my hands!  My carving buddy told me that he would spend time studying how leaves, twigs, berries, whatever look in nature.  Also spent time studying other carvings.  The trick for me is to have my hands guide the chisel to do what I think it should.  Just like an artist that paints, the brush stroke looks best when it's one continuous and confident path from start to finish.  Same thing applies to carving.  Another thing to consider is knowing when to stop and taking the time to step away from the work and observe it from a distance to get the over-all look -- time to do it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Progress Report

At The End of the Day

    Like the caption says, this is what is done at the end of the day on the carved panel.  Measurements are about 23" wide by 16" high or there about.  The wood is Basswood and the design is the very classical Aganthus Leaf.  Besides sharing the progress of my work, I enjoy writing my blogs to solidify the decisions I made during the day in the shop.  Woodworking is pretty much a solitary endeavor which is one of the reasons it's so appealing to me.  However; sometimes you work through problems and may or may not hit the right solutions.  Luckily, a friend of mine is a fantastic carver so I can see him for help.  I showed this to Dennis today and he told me that it looks as if I'm on the right track.  Of course I knew that I could have used a router to remove the bulk of the waste but the quietness of carving and not having any type of deadline trumped that.  Besides, Basswood carves pretty easily so the hands on exercise will increase my skill level.
     The panel is about 3/4" thick and I've set the background a quarter of an inch deep.  This will give me (hopefully) enough thickness to model the wood and make it all look believable.  The eventual, over-all texture I'd like to achieve is on the section to the right of the leaf to be.  Here's the basic process required to get to this point.
     First, the pattern was drawn onto the board with graphite paper.

Various Gouges and Sweeps

     Now comes the step referred to as "grounding in" which is where the outline of the design is chiseled and the background is eventually removed.  Here's when you understand why carvers can have hundreds of chisels.  They are categorized by what's called Sweep.  A flat chisel  would be a #1 sweep while one that is almost U-shaped would be a #11.  To that you add the width in millimeters so the combinations become staggering!  Needless to say, I fall far short of the hundreds of chisel owner so have to make do with what I currently have.  Eventually I'll learn how to design my work around the chisels I own.
     Once the basic design is "ground in" the background needs to be removed.

#3 Sweep vs. #11 Sweep

     I took this photograph to illustrate the sweep differences.  Removing the background can be done in stages.  After going around the design I first used the #11 (right in picture) to waste away the wood.  You can see that it makes furrows because of it's shape but these are easier to cut or gouge out.  After that, the #3 (left in picture) is used to level out the furrows and achieve the texture I'd like to have.
     The outside of the panel presented a problem.  First off, even if I had a chisel of the proper sweep to match the curvature, beating on it with a mallet that close to the edge would more than likely break the edge off.  That didn't seem like a wise thing to do!  Another option would be to use a V-tool but that can be difficult to control and I wanted a 90 degree cut at that point.
     After experimenting with a couple of ways I thought may work this is what actually worked for this area.

Skew to Ground In the Border

     By holding a skew upright and very carefully controlling it with both hands I was able to follow the lay out line pretty closely.  This was also used on the long curve of the Acanthus.  This was followed with the #2 chisel you see laying on the leaf.

Close up of #2 at Work

     After using the skew, the #2 is used to lift out a small chip.  The skew may have gone in 1/32" or so, especially on the first pass.  Taking out the chip gives a shoulder to guide the skew against so subsequent cuts can be made deeper.  Trying to achieve a uniform depth of 1/4" all the way around.
     I'm almost to that point so the first thing tomorrow will be to work the background to how I'd like it to be and then begin the actual carving of the leaf.  Probably be dreaming on how to do that tonight!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ready for Carving

     You know how it goes, once you tell someone of your plans you are then held accountable.  In years past I would contemplate taking on the challenge of a certain ultra mountain race and those plans were safe until I shared them with others, now I became accountable!  Well, guess it's time to go public with these:

Acanthus Leaf Panel

     You may recall the posts I made during the week long workshop with Ian Agrell earlier this year.  I learned so much about traditional carving from his talks, demonstration, and one on one instruction.  Of course, learning and putting it into practice are two, very far apart, activities.  This panel will eventually be placed in the cut out above the stove and microwave in our newly remodeled kitchen.  I have a couple of things going for me, first it's about 7' up on the wall so won't be under super close scrutiny and secondly, I'm using Basswood which will be considerably easier to carve than the African Mahogany given in class.
     The Acanthus leaf is probably the most carved feature you'll come across.  Honest, do a Google or any other internet search on it and you'll come up with tons of examples.  I've also been looking into classical carving books and virtually every one of them have a section on how to carve this leaf.  Once I decided on the leaf pattern it was copied onto tracing paper.  To orient them and make the design symmetrical a base line was drawn from the center point at 40 degrees to lay the pattern on.  The center carving is actually a scan from a catalog.  There will be lots of learning from this panel -- no doubt!
     For carving, my workbench set up changes somewhat:

Carving Set-Up

     To start, the bench on bench is clamped to the right side of the main bench.  Just an FYI, this bench has proven real popular with the Sin City Woodworkers group and Jamie and I are planning to offer a class on building one in the near future at her school.  Years ago I purchased an LED light that is to the right of the bench.  I was trying my hand at the small scale carvings for Diane's picture frame and these old eyes needed all the help they could get.  Regular, incandescent task lighting worked except when the shop temperature is pushing 100+ degrees and you add a light bulb close to you and the work my sweat started to rust the tools!, not a good thing.  At the far left is a Koch system for honing the tools.  One of the things I struggle with is that as a shop teacher I always emphasized to the students to place their tools with the sharp, dangerous end facing inboard.  For carving it's recommended that you have them facing you so you can see the edge and choose the proper tool.  I guess it's a new trick for an old dog!
     Here's a closer look:

Time to Start

     I felt it wise to do a little practicing before jumping into the actual panel.  Leaning against the wall is the cut off from the panel with my practice work.  One of the things I learned in the class is that for a design to really be symmetrical the curves should be made with gouges that have a specific size (sweep).  For a more free form of carving you can outline the shape with a V-chisel because slight variations won't really matter.  The goal of this panel is to present an appealing shape, carved fairly deep into the panel, that will create an interesting texture as the light bounces off of it.  The background will be left with visible gouge marks to confirm that it's hand made rather than created by a machine.  In talking with other carvers there's a balance with the background.  You want to leave enough gouge marks and texture to confirm that it's a hand made piece but not so much that it comes across as crudely done carving -- ah yes, the challenges continue but what would life be without them?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My First Movie!

     Well, I guess movie is too broad of a term but this was pretty cool.  I've started to work on the semicircular piece that I plan on carving and putting above the range in the kitchen.  Since my carving skills are just developing the best wood to use for it is Basswood.  It is pretty even grained so carves quite easily.  Since I had some in the shop that I use for picture frames decided it was best to laminate some pieces together to form the blank.  As I started to plane the edges, the shavings were so cool looking as they exited the plane I called Diane out to see them.  If you've never checked out her website click on this link and see how she's been using various media to showcase her talents.
     To get to the point, I wondered if she could do a video clip and here's what she did:

     Kind of look like the creature from the Blue Lagoon at the end of the plane strokes as I peer at the camera in my safety glasses!  She showed me how to edit it and slow it down towards the end of the stroke so you can really see that shaving curling out of the plane -- see why hand work excites me?
     There's a few ways to check your planing for squareness.  In a previous entry you saw how you can stack the boards together and use a straight edge on the sides to make sure they're parallel and will glue up squarely.  Another quick way is to use your plane as a guide:

     You can also use a straight edge for this but since you have the plane in your hand anyway this makes for a quick, interim way to check your progress.

     The other way the edge needs to be checked is that it's 90 degrees to the face:

     I carry this small machinists square in my pocket for just this use.  I still feel the best way is to stack your boards together to double check how they will glue up together.  If you have a table saw you can also set the board on edge, then hold the try-square on the saw to check it.  What ever works for you is the way to go!

     This morning, after the blank stayed glued and clamped over night, the arch was cut out with the bandsaw.  To smooth out the cut, once again a hand tool came into play.  Check out what a spokeshave can accomplish on end grain of wood, I just had to try to capture that for the blog.     See the transition from the spokeshaved edge to the band sawn edge at the bottom?  Beautiful, so much nicer to my eye than an abraded and sanded edge.  Laying on the spokeshave is a shaving from the cut and you can see the smoother part at the top as the cut was made to the bottom part that was only band sawn.  Now comes the design process, thankfully Diane has a better eye for that and, after all, she has been giving me drawing lessons!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It Is Finished, Looking Forward to Mopping the Floor !

Whose Kitchen ...

....... Is This Anyway?

     After just a bit more than a month, the work is done and we're both very excited and pleased.  It has been a total transformation and like Diane says, it's almost as if we've moved into a new house!  It's not as if there was really something "wrong" with the way the kitchen was before but now it's much brighter and a pleasure to work in.  The stovetop is phenomenal, don't know if it's the influence of the Food Channel but with this stovetop and it's Power Burners, things heat up fast but yet, you can also achieve an actual simmer.  I've always kind of enjoyed cooking although not on a full time basis, and this elevates that part of my creativeness.  In any case though, I really am looking forward to the final kitchen chapter, mopping the floor, and then getting back to the shop.  I have a carving project, a gilding project, and a small telephone table in the design stages.
     A valuable thing I learned from this project is how to tape off an area with what's referred to as painters plastic to not only protect the surroundings but also to contain messes.  The first time this was needed was when I had to enlarge the opening for the stovetop in the granite -- whew, what a mess!  No pictures of that but the cabinet for the double ovens needed this as well.  Ever make a tent when you were a kid out of chairs and blankets?  Well, in keeping with Toy's R Us theme, I too don't want to grow up!  Here's my grown up tent:

     By putting the ladder on the island, clamping some boards from the top of the cabinet to it, and then sheathing it in the painters plastic I created my own little tent.  It was taped down to the floor to contain the sawdust after I enclosed myself in the whole thing.

         After the dust settled, here's the end result of this process.  By using a plunge router with a 1/4" up spiral bit it was possible to trim the width to the required size.  The top then needed to be cut to size as well, almost an inch and a half off of it.  That's the piece I removed (white color) from the top of the face frame to accommodate the ovens.  This meant that the doors above it also needed to be raised by the same amount.  Screw holes were drilled out and what I would call a "hole saver" dowel was glued in.  Little bit of sanding and repaint and it's better than new.

     Look at that mess on the floor, sure am glad it was contained by the plastic tent.  Sure didn't want to vacuum and dust the entire kitchen.

     An interesting side note on this whole process is that m nephew Thomas, is also in the middle of re-modeling his kitchen.  He's been following these posts and has added the LED lights and recessed lights to his project as well.  Been fun doing them together via the  Internet!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Just Had to Show It

     Now here's a proper bread board!, sculpted front piece is all that shows but then when you pull it out; nothing but an expanse of Hard Maple.  I like the little extra pizzazz the knob gives to it, when you see it in it's entirety this is what you see:

     Now really, doesn't that just look so much better than this sorry example of a bread board?


Breadboard Assembly -- Almost Ready for the Knife!

     After all of the painting and carpentry work I've been doing on the kitchen remodel it's been a real pleasure to work wood in the shop.  Here's the final results of that ready for assembly:

Proper "Breadboard" End Construction

     Go back to the discussion of why the breadboard end is what it is and does what it does and this will now make sense.  The Maple board will expand/contract across the width.  The end which is now painted white, caps it off and conceals the relatively unattractive end grain.  You'll notice that the holes have been elongated.  The only glue to assemble this is applied to the middle of the joint, they are then glued together and the pins are glued in place.  Because the holes are elongated the Maple can expand/contract in the groove without cracking, the elongated holes allow that to happen.  My finish of choice for anything that comes into contact with food is plain old Mineral Oil.  Cheap, safe to ingest, and won't go rancid like a vegetable oil would in the wood.  Applied it with some 320 grit wet/dry sandpaper followed with another application with a Scotch Brite, white colored pad.  For maintenance that's all you ever need to do.
     As I was working on this I remembered that when I first began teaching I became good friends with a math teacher on staff.  He was getting married so I decided it would be neat to make them a Maple salad bowl on the lathe at the school shop.  I finished it with Mineral Oil, engraved their names and date along with some wedding bells on the bottom and proudly presented it for their wedding present.  Several weeks later, he mentioned to me that the finish had gotten kind of dull after putting it in the dishwasher!!  Once he understood why wood, glue, hi-temperature water and heat drying wasn't the best for wood we refinished it and things were okay.  I wonder if they still have that bowl, it was only 1978  or so!
     Anyway, got off subject so back to the breadboard.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to do some hand tool work on this piece.  First off, the end piece needed to be shaped and sculpted.  Could have used a router bit to do this but this is a safer, quieter, and more enjoyable method.  First off, draw in the boundary lines for the shape:

Finger Guided Boundry

     Great opportunity to use spokeshaves to form that edge by carefully working to those lines:

     The spokeshave I'm using in the pictures has a radiused sole so it can get into inside curves.  The one on the bench is one made from a kit.  With these tools it's very easy to form edges, because you work by hand taking thin shavings it's easy to work with the grain of the wood and avoid any tear out.  Routers, on the other hand, go quickly but it the grain direction changes can be prone to ripping the edge of your board.
     Well, the ovens came yesterday so now it's time to open up the cabinet to make it fit.  Oh yeah, I will be using a router and edge guide to accomplish that!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why it's called a Bread Board End

     Everybody knows what a breadboard is and many of you have probably heard of the bread board end but let me take this blog as a way to explain it.  The bread board that came with our house was simply a piece of Baltic Birch plywood with an Oak cleat nailed on to match the cabinets -- badda boom badda bing, slap it together and you're done!  Well, let's go to the traditional route.
     This bread board is made up of three pieces of hard Maple.  To conceal the unattractive end grain, another piece is applied to the end of the board.  Since this piece is placed against the end of the others you have to take the wood movement into consideration.  The main boards have the grain running perpendicular to that front piece which can be a problem.  It needs to have room to expand or contract depending on the atmospheric conditions.  That's accomplished by cutting a tongue on the end of the board and a groove in the center of the piece placed on the end, here's the end:

Piece of the End of Breadboard
    I used a small plunge router with a 1/4" straight bit to cut this groove.  Notice the deeper sections towards the ends?  This is where the full length tongues will go.  Don't want the tongues to be too wide either.  I plan on using a knob on this board as well, that's what the hole in the center is for.

Breadboard & Breadboard End

     Here's what you have going on.  A 1/2" rabbeting bit was used with a router to create the tongue on the end of the board.  It's full length for about 1/8 in depth and then the tongues are 1/2" deep.  I've darkened in the areas that will need to be cut away.  Remember my power tool for grunt work and hand tools to refine it philosophy?  I'll use a bandsaw to waste away most of this, then:

Chisel to Square Corners
           And .....

Rabbet Plane to Fine Tune the Tongue

     Now, all of this may seem like a lot of effort and work just to make a board that will be cut up when slicing bread, tomatoes, chicken, etc. but it's these little touches that separates mass produced, make a quick buck product from one made to the highest standard.  Like Diane says, it's going to be hard to take a knife to this thing but it must be done!  Kind of like buying a new pick up and getting that first scratch in the bed when you're hauling rocks -- it's inevitable.
     Here's a little rant, as I thought about how that piece of Birch ply with the Oak cleat was serviceable for all these years I too questioned why go to all of this trouble.  It's all about the process involved and using your mind to solve the issues.  It's sad to me that people who do work in the wood industry have probably never been exposed to the issues involved to make this "simple" breadboard.  Look at this:

What it Took
     The end of the breadboard is pretty complex.  The pencil and ruler were needed to locate the joint after the brain had figured out how to do it.  The chisels were needed to refine it and cut that little recess on the tongue for the screw.  The small carving chisel (center) rounded out the recess for the screw head to fit in to and the rabbet plane brought the tongue to thickness so that it fit neatly into the groove.  The small router plane was needed for the thin part of the tongue where the rabbet plane was difficult to balance.
     Know what though?  One person could have programmed a CNC machine to do all of those processes and a minimum wage flunky could have fastened the board in place on that machine!  Each board would be spit out faster than I could accomplish the lay out!
     Progress and technology is a good thing but I've always said: "it can suck your brains out!"  Hopefully there are enough folks like me around that want to share this craft and keep it going.  Next will be shaping of the front piece and finishing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Breadboard: Hand Planing Sequence Part 2

     In the last blog I talked about how to go about jointing the edges to prepare for gluing up a wide board.  Now that's done it's time to surface it and bring it to our thickness.  Here's your goal:

Super Thin Shaving

     If you're like me and prefer the look and feel of a hand planed surface this is what you're after.  In the first part of this blog I talked about jointing the edges and showed a rather thick, even thickness, shaving.  When you hand plane a surface it's best to use a slightly cambered blade which will give you a shaving that's thicker in the middle and tapers to nothing at the sides.  Your surface will be ever so slightly and barely scalloped but it's hardly noticed by the human eye.  So saying that, it is a difference some folks look for!  But hey, this is going to be a cutting board so why bother.  Just me I guess!
     There is a well known, hand tool woodworker by the name of Christopher Schwartz.  He advocates many traditional woodworking processes and has his distinct matter of working and exactly what tools you need to accomplish them.  Him and I differ in that I strive to do the most I can with a minimum of tools; i.e. ca$h outlay, I am Dutch after all!
     I'd like to point out a few things.  First off, hardwoods classified as 4/4 are usually 25/32" to 13/16" thick so you'll need to make them a uniform thickness.  The slot for the breadboard is 3/4" so I needed to bring this down to 11/16" or so.  Since the piece was laminated and is now 16" wide, my 15" planer won't handle it.  I could have surfaced each piece down before I laminated them but no matter what, they'll still need to be smoothed and surfaced.
     Here's my sequence, first of all I used a jointer plane (# 7) for the initial smoothing:

Jointer Plane, note Arrows Showing Grain Direction

     This should be checked with a straight edge.  You can also lay the board on a smooth, square machine surface and see if it rocks.  The goal now is to make the show face for lack of a better word.  Thickness will come later.
     Once the show face is relatively smooth the next step is to use a Jack Plane with a cambered blade to smooth the entire surface:

Initial Work with Jack Plane
     The blade is cambered so the edges don't dig in and create grooves.  Do you see  the different appearance of the wood as it is cut and planed smooth?  A good technique is to cover the wood with pencil marks too, theory being that once all of those are gone you've completely planed the surface.  Now it's time to refine it:

Bronze Smoother Plane

     Hopefully you can see the different sheen on the wood as you take the thin shavings like the one shown at the beginning of this post.  Your goal at this time is to make this surface almost perfect.  I say almost because you still have some work to do on the opposite side and may make some dings on this surface.  So, what do we need to do?

     If you had that big planer you'd just slip it in there, however; most of us don't have the luxury of one of those.  Before power planers came about there was a hand plane referred to as a Scrub Plane.  You can search my blogs because I went through the construction of this tool at the beginning of the year.  It's been quite well received and I've had many web contacts asking for details on how to build one.  Quite flattering really and one man has already made his version of this plane in a class I taught and there are several others out there in the internet world I've communicated with to help them build their own versions.  In any case, this blade has a radiused blade and is designed to remove wood in a hurry!  It works best when skewed across the surface of the board.  That gets you these curlicue shavings, for some reason on this Maple, scrubbing with the grain actually clogged the throat and it's huge!

Nice, Curlicue Shavings 

     It doesn't take long ( and cancels your trip to the gym) to work that board down to your required thickness.  I would recommend doing this only on the bottom of your board because you may go a bit deep with the scrub plane, deeper than your desired thickness.  This means there will be a depression, slight but still noticeable if it were to show like a table top.

Nice Pile of Shavings, Note the Texture of the Cut

     Now you do the same process, Jointer plane to smooth things initially, Jack plane (cambered blade) to refine even more, and then a Smooth plane to complete the job. Here's my collection of planes I use to accomplish this task.  You can do without the specialized Smooth plane by getting a spare blade for your Jack plane and putting a camber on it.  I did that for years and it works just fine.  I still use the Jack with a straight blade for general purpose work and then swap it for the cambered one to pre-finish the surface before switching over to the Smooth plane.

     It's like I stated earlier, my goal is to do the most work possible with the fewest number of tools.  I will admit though that when I get paid for a commission and there is a special tool I've had my eye on I may justify buying it but -- I'm Dutch and that wallet can be pretty hard to open at times!