Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So Much Pillowing

Took a quick break to saw up a couple plane blanks I had. The top is Vera (given to me by Robert to cheer me up after a disappointing glue-up, which I ended up coming back from. Thanks Robert!) which will be a new smoother. The one I'm using now has treated me well and has seen a good amount of use but was one of the earlier planes I made. I bet I can make one that's even more comfortable to use. The old one may become a compass plane.
The bottom was sold as Burmese Rosewood. That will be a 1-3/4" coopering plane. I already have 1", 1-1/4", and 1-1/2" but it seems my taste in forms is getting less... "exaggerating". I plan to use it on some up-coming cabinet doors :).
I don't know when I'll get to these but there is no rush. I cut the pieces extra thick to allow the wood to do what it wants as I don't think they are at the 10% humidity mark.

Back to the project(s) at hand. Pillowing! A lot of it. These legs are pretty long compared to the last tables and I'm doing a little more extensive pillowing. It took me about an hour to complete each leg. The outside faces of the legs are a little more heavily pillowed towards the top and the inside faces of the legs have a tapering pillow heavier at the bottom.

After about 12 hours I got a sizable pile on the floor. This will help thin down those legs!

During all that spokeshaving was a good time to enjoy another one of my interests... coffee! I don't drink much but I enjoy a nice cup. On the way to Vancouver I had spent a couple days around Seattle where I found one of my favorite coffee shops I've been to. Thing are different in the Northwest. It is a region that, on average, has more passion maybe even obsession than others... especially that of the Midwest.
As I may have mentioned before the Midwest is not a place of overflowing enthusiasm let alone passion, where the majority haven't even thought to rethink one's "definition" of "happiness" and what one may or may not require to obtain that illusive state other than simply keeping a paycheck for the least amount of work possible.
OK, I may be over stating it but still. I have found only a few who take real pride, care, passion, and maybe a little reverence in what they do.
The people at a place called Coffee and Tea Ltd are a couple of those.

This is Jim, the man behind the shop and the well practiced roaster at this roastery (photo taken from their website). There are no tables to sit at and no porcelain to sip from. It's a small kind of cluttered space with lots of jars of beans on the walls and a small old but loved roaster in the window. He roasts the largest selection of fine coffee around not for riches or fame but because he wants to, he enjoys what he does, and believes in his mission and process to "create affordable luxury" as their statement goes. I like it and I respect it.
Thank you for doing what you're doing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Distractions are distracting

I feel that I haven't been as productive since last time. Somewhat random things have come up or needed to be done. Work (other job) has called on me a little more then "usual". Stuff and things.
Ah yes, mortise and tenons were all dry-fit, then glued into one side and checked again. Above is one of the dry-fit walnut pieces. The basic structure is done but everything needs to be cleaned up, shaped, refined, and so on...

The main thing that sent my head for a loop was a random call I got from a drum shop in the cities. This drum shop also makes custom drums. I had stopped in when I got back to the area this past May to see if they could use any help. I am experienced in drum-building and my skills in workmanship have defiantly improved since the last time I built any drums (The kit above is a big one I built, but not my own). They said that they only staff one builder which they already had of course.
One day about 2 weeks ago? I got a call from the shop saying they need a builder ASAP. I went in the next morning for a meeting with the owner of the shop to find out more about working there. Skipping the details, it seemed like a pretty attractive opportunity but there were a couple things that I felt were kind of heavy burdens.
I told him I'd get back to him a couple days and spent those days completely wracking my brains over it.
In the end I gave him a counter offer which he said he could not meet. So I haven't gone to work there.

Right. Back to furniture. Pictured above, planing those aprons almost flush with the tops of the legs... not flush yet!

I was getting a little overwhelmed with drum stuff and the workmanship of risk in the bench room. I needed to do some "rougher" work for a change. Lugged this heavy plank of air dried Maple to the horses to look for table-top veneer.

Some of that Maple and more White Oak milled ready to cut the veneers on the band saw, but first a fresh blade for the saw. Cutting veneers seemed to go better this time around now that I already had the experience on these machines from last time.

My planer only goes down to 1/8", like many, to be able to plane these veneers I just used some sheet-stock to "raise" the bed.

Here's another brain wracker for me. This talk is probably going to get difficult to follow without visuals... My intention for the Maple tops was to cross-cut across the 20" wide Maple plank which was cracked down the heart, cut off the checked/really flat-sawn material, and put it back together in veneer form so that the table top would span the flitch of Maple (minus some of the middle and off-cut sides). I figure this way I could join the veneer pieces in the same annual ring as the other hopefully maintaining a consistent color and there would be no book-matching to screw up the prismatics of the maple.
In my experience Maple has a noticeable shift in brightness or darkness due to the deflection or reflection of light caused by the orientation of wood fibers in the material. Keeping the fiber orientation in the same direction in both joined pieces of veneer was important to me. It kind of struck me as odd that my intended matches weren't turning out so well... it seemed to be prismatic clashing. The veneer pieces were in the same orientation as the came from the log but you never REALLY know that things like this will work out. I was pretty bummed. I didn't know what to do. I took a pair from the same side of the pith and looked at a book match which I didn't think was going to turn out. This is the really wracking part... it SEEMED to turn out! I couldn't see a clear distinction in light reflecting off either side. This defies all my logic! I've never seen a book-match in Maple that didn't annoy the crap out of me due to it's prismatic effect.
I wasn't about to go head with it so I took some veneer off-cuts and did some mocking as to Craig's advise ;). I glued some little joints and did some mock surface prep and I couldn't see a strong difference between the two sides even right at the seam.
In any case it looked better than what I was getting with my intended match. CRAZY!

So, I guess I'm going with it. If it really doesn't work out for some reason I guess I'll have to spend another couple days making new tops. I really hope it does and I do not want to waste this maple. Planks like these aren't seen very often.

Oh boy other things I had swimming around my head was the search for more lumber. I'm short the Oak I want for a Coffee Table. I called around 35 "local" sawyers. Three of them had anything on hand in 8/4 and none had suitable White Oak. Also I'm trying to get material ahead of time for a project after the Coffee Tables so that it can acclimate if need be and so I can acclimate to it. This "up coming" piece will be a one-off (yay!) and I would like it to be quite refined in a friendly way. Therefore I would like to have the material around long enough to contemplate. Something feminine, these Tables seem to be the most masculine things I've done in a long time which is kind of funny because they aren't super masculine... I guess they are pretty structural and have less curves.
I'm leaning toward some fruit woods, if I can find them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

more pedestal work

All the mortises have been made. It's really less tiring and quicker work when using woods that don't blunt your end-mill bits after a couple passes... huh ;)

Looking out to the blinding snow, or cold gray days I really don't feel bad about staying inside all day to work. If that's a "pro" for living here, it's a twisted one.

Next I went to overall leg cutting and shaping. I don't want to spend the time fitting joints if I'm just going to find some random fatal flaw in a leg. Not that I'm anticipating any, but just to make sure.
Also this is what happens when you don't have any dust collection. And don't mind the Grizzly... it will be one of the first things to be replaced, some day, but for now it's WAY better than nothing.

I've only had this shop space for a few months but already my simple sharpening station has seen some good use. I would like to find a better manual grinder but it's just another thing on the list.

Freshly sharpened irons go to work on the leg profiles. These legs are about 35.5" tall and the amplitude of the curve is somewhere around 5/16". The pile of shavings on the floor is quite welcome to hang out for a while.
Note the space heater ha. There are no heat vents entering this room. I'm not overly excited about using the heater which can further dry out the already dry air but I only turn it on when I'm working and it is set low so the room maintains about 60-62 degrees F. It's gets difficult to do sensitive work with cold hands.

Tenon stock made and cross cut, fitting begins. This time around I made the stock a little closer to final dimension. They are pretty close but not quite. Do a little fine tuning and they get that snug but not jammed fit, and a good "POP!"

The tables seem to be moving along pretty well (now that I say that something bad is going to happen). Maybe it's because I just did the same operations, maybe it's the wood, or the fact that I'm doing 3 pieces instead of 4. I wonder how the coffee tables will go?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wider Angle

Greetings again. Last post I mentioned the redundancy of the projects I'm working on. I thought maybe it could be neat if I took a slightly different direction in some of these posts.
One of the major goals for many modern craftspeople is to put or maintain humanity in the objects they make. I share the same goal. Another side of the human story I have for a long time been interested in is the craftsperson's environment. What is their workspace like? How do they work? Does their work reflect their environment (or other way around for that matter). What other inspirations, attributes, quirks, etc does this person have that makes the thing they are making uniquely their own? Not just names but who are these people? I've always been a sucker for some romance :)
Well that's a lot to tackle but I thought I might try taking a step back (somewhat literal with camera in hand ha) and show a little wider angle for at least myself and the work that I'm doing.
We'll see...

The Minnesota Winter. Not a pleasant place to be if you ask me. I hate snow and I hate the "extreme" cold. I've been longing to escape it for some time now. Last year in the Northwest I was quite happy to "deal" with a lot of rain.
Yesterday the HIGH was -5 F (-20 C).

In the basement shop there is a thermometer that reads somewhere between 58-60 F but it feels much colder when I get down there in the morning.
Making leg mortises for apron and stretcher tenons with the old Davis and Wells boring machine I got from outside Seattle, WA. It cost a bit to get it here but any time I use it I'm happy to have it. I intend to get a "real" x-y table for it but the plywood will have to work for now.
The motor is fairly old and doesn't even have ball bearings. The motor housing has holes for lubricating the bearings. I put a little oil in every time I use it just to be sure (it did seize up on me once before I knew exactly what was on the inside of that motor). There's something about the smell of an old machine. The heated oil in the motor, the friction from the belt, some grease stains on the old cast iron that fine dust sticks to. Sure it sounds dirty but I find it charming.

Pulling out the shop-made router table for some rebate work.
A number of people look at finished products, read the price tags and think that we live like rich designers. In most cases this is no where near the truth. Most of us are not extremely well equipped let alone own dream shops. There isn't enough space, the machines don't have large enough capacity, there isn't enough light, it would be nice to have one of this or that, it's too cold or hot, too dry or damp... There is, however, a lot dust and making do.

Rebates have been made. Time to clean them up and do more prep work for more mortises.