Friday, December 11, 2009

Bring On the Heat

No wood shop would be complete without a wood stove. There are always scraps to burn for heat in a wood shop. I decided to go with the "Harman Mark I" coal stove that also burns wood. It is the smallest stove they offer which heats up to 1400 sq ft. I fired it up yesterday for the first time and the temp last night fell into the teens. It did very well after the paint smell burned off the stove. I loaded it full with coal and it lasted all night and half of today. I didn't see any smoke and the shop is very comfortable. Coal burns hotter than wood but has more ash. I can mix wood and coal together. The coal also helps keep creosote out of the chimney.

The chimney for the 12/12 pitch roof was very tall and very scary to install (by myself). I am not afraid of heights, just widths. All went well and I look forward to finishing the hardwood flooring so I can get moved in.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Getting Close

The only thing keeping me from moving in the new shop is a floor. I have started milling my own floor from quartersawn white oak. This has proven to be much work. Going from tree to final floor is not the fast way for a hardwood floor but when have I ever done things the fast way?

Each plank is milled down to 3/4'' thick and 4 1/2'' wide. Then routed with a set of tongue and groove flooring bits made by Amana Tools. They work great.

I think the quartersawn floor will be much more stable since the wood is air dried. It also looks good with the ray flecks from the white oak. I hope to be done with the floor sometime later in December.

I made the side light for the front door to match the old one. Can you tell which one I made?

This week I'll be working on 3 comb back chairs for a local customer. They are made with a natural finish using butternut for the seat, white oak for the back and cherry turnings for the legs and stretchers. I'll post on these later. By the way, I made the sidelight on the right.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

From my family to yours, have a safe and meaningful Thanksgiving. Now I must go dust off those running shoes.

Greg, Kim, and Logan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chopping Tails

Well I couldn't wait another day. I had to try the new shop even before it was finished. I needed to cut dovetails for six drawers going in a sideboard. I have to say the numerous windows was a good decision. I had so much natural light coming into the shop that lights were not needed.

I chopped dovetails all day long. The curly maple was no easy material to work but what fun I had. There is something just therapeutic about the whole process of dovetails. Laying out and cutting to the line then using the razor sharp chisels to complete the process. It doesn't take long to get into a rythym.

It wasn't always so easy to cut dovetails. I learned many years ago to cut the tails first then mark and cut the pins. This works fine but I learned a much faster method from Alan Breed to cut the pins first. After years of doing this method I cut to the line with hardly any clean up and the joint fits right together. Anyone can do it with practice. I must say I look forward getting up tomorrow and walking to work and cutting more dovetails.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ready for Siding

It has been some time since posting on the progress of the new shop. As you can see the Tyvek wrap has been installed over the OSB boards to keep them dry until the siding is put on. The insulation went up quick and with some temporary heat on in the shop has proved to be very effective. The 60 amp sub panel has been installed and lights are going up. I should have plenty of power to run a number of plugs although not many will be needed in a chair shop.

Once the floor is put down I'll be moving in. I have to lay tile for installation of the wood stove. The flooring will be 1/4 sawn white oak that has to be planed and routed for the tung and groove.

After many, many days of thinking how to use the beautiful windows that Carl had given to me I had to break the news to him that I would buy new wood windows. This was a very hard decision but if I were to be able to move in the new shop this year I would not have time to build all the frames for these windows. Insulation factors played a big part too.

I did get to use Troy and Katie's old front door unit. They only had one side light so I'll have to build one to match. Troy is a good friend of mine who I grew up with here in Hendersonville. He is traveling with his family on a trip around the country for a whole year to live and learn all they can. I look forward when they walk through their old front door again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Raising the Barn video

O.K. The video of the barn raising that Shawn Lance has produced is now available from his web site. He has a trailor you can watch. Just click on the title above. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I don't believe in reincarnation for people but trees.....well....sorta, kinda. Bill and I cut an enormous white oak the other day that died over the summer. It was located in a mans front yard that Bill had spotted while driving by. Bill has a way of finding treasures in the strangest places. After several trips to track down the owner, Bill talked the guy into letting us have the logs for simply cutting it down. The dead tree will now be reincarnated into many new useful things. I could have hiked 50 acres of woods and not found such a clear and straight white oak such as this. It was nearly 30'' in diameter and maxed out the cutting capabilities of my sawmill. We had a blast cutting this thing up watching all the beautiful quarter sawn boards stacking up on the trailor. Bill's dad Raymon came by to help as well.

So much is going on right now. I just completed the triple back settee for Mr. Underwood. He has been very patient since ordering it over a year ago. My next piece is the sideboard out of curly maple. The timber frame shop has the window openings cut out along the front which makes it look more like a shop than a barn. Boy is this the time of year to work outside. I never take for granted being able to work from home doing what I do. I don't miss the old 9-5 job I did for 17 years at all. I guess maybe I have been reincarnated too.

Friday, October 9, 2009

All Boarded Up

Once again trying to beat the rain I completed the installation of the rough sawn timber on the outside of the new shop. It looks like a "barn" at this point. It has taken thousands of board feet to cover this shop. The front door has been roughed in and the side lights on each side. It will look better when I get the windows cut out but for now will hold out the rain.

Shawn Lance has completed the "Barn Raising" video which has already started airing on Hendersonville's local comcast channel 3 every Friday night at 6 pm til the end of the year. I will soon have some info on how to purchase a copy of this DVD if you're interested. Shawn did a great job putting this together and I highly recommend this to anyone considering a timber frame structure. A picture is worth a thousand words and this video should answer some questions on how to get started and what a "raising" looks like. I will have a link to his web site to purchase the DVD by the next post.

I have so many irons in the fire right now so work on the new shop is slow. I do still make windsor chairs and have a settee to do next. I also have a sideboard to make for a dining room. This is for the same couple I just delivered the dining table to in Alabama. The curly maple for this sideboard came from Irion Lumber Co. out of Pennsylvania and it is prime stuff. I highly recommend these guys for matched sets and crazy figured hardwoods. Check out the finished dining table top which was finished using russett amber maple dye, amber shellac, and laquer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ready for Thanksgiving

I can't believe October is already here. Time is flying by and I can't do anything about it. I guess I've been having too much fun. I look forward to the change of season, the cooler air, fall leaves, and a warm wood fire. It's the best time of year to get outside and work like a dog on all the things I've been putting off over the summer.

The dining room table I have been working on is ready for Thanksgiving. I will deliver this soon to its new home in Alabama. The eight chairs I made have been patiently waiting for this table and I hope compliment each other. The sideboard is next!

I got to meet Peter Galbert at Highland Woodworking last week. He was teaching a class with Curtis Buchanan on the c-arm rocker.Pete is a very talented chair maker who will no doubt change chair making history. We went to dinner to discuss the chair class I will be assisting him with at Kelly Mehler's school in Berea, Ky in March. If you want to learn chair making you don't want to miss this fantastic opportunity. Go here to sign up. If you haven't already checked out Pete's site and blog

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Barter System

I am not a brick layer. I can't believe I even considered laying the brick on this shop but I found a way out. Bill's friend Larry King (not the old one with suspenders) is a very experienced and talented brick layer. Larry is also having a baby in December and needed a rocking chair for the baby room. I make chairs, Larry lays brick. Problem solved. Bill and Larry layed all 1500 brick on Sunday while I was finishing up the Craft show in Nashville. I hated to miss the fun but the two of them looked as if they had just climbed Everest. It was a long day and Larry had to drive back to Indiana to be at work the next morning by 6 am. My hats off to both of those guys who did a fantastic job. I hope Larry will like the rocking chair.

The brick is called "Jefferson Wade Tudor". It's a tumbled brick made to look old. The mortor is a buff color which gives a period look to the brick. They didn't have gray mortor in this area back in the 18th century so this should fit the decor of this shop.

I have many things to do in the next few weeks that will keep any work from being done on the shop. I have many chairs to make as well as other pieces. Soon I will return to Elberfeld with Bill to cut more timber. We have an awesome white oak to take down that died last spring as well as other logs to saw for the new shop walls and loft. I will post on this later.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Time Lapse

Here is the short video that Shawn Lance did of the barn raising. He is still editing the complete barn raising program. Thanks once again to all who helped.

I will be headed to the TACA fall craft fair in Nashville this weekend to show my chairs and talk to interested woodworkers. It's a long 3 days but I always enjoy the connection with the people. Looks like rain will be a part of this outdoor show so wish us all luck.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Closing In

Well the roof is finally done and in good time. The rains have set in thanks to a stubborn low pressure system stuck in Texas pumping moisture right into middle Tennessee. I still have the "Snorkel" machine which allows me to take some good pictures of the roof from 50 feet in the air. I started closing in the eaves with the same system of rough sawn planks, black felt paper, rigid insulation, and OSB. I rough framed for the window which is kind of a guess right now. My windows were donated from Carl Kowalski from Northern Indiana. These windows are from the late 20's and are beautiful leaded paned glass. I will have to build the frames for each window which is why the framing is a guess. More on the windows later.

I am trying to get all the things done up high while I still have the lift machine. It goes back on Saturday. I could use it another week but it's too expensive.

Shawn is still working on the video program on the barn raising. It will air on local channel 3 after he completes all the editing. Shawn is very talented at what he does and I am so grateful for his interest in documenting this process.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


The Snorkle is a 4-wheel drive machine that lifts 50' in the air with a basket where you operate it. After a while I got comfortable navigating the snorkle around the new shop trying to beat the rain finishing the roof. By Sunday night I had one side complete except the shingles. Here are some photos of the 2'' rigid insulation and OSB sheathing going on. The insulation is taped together and wraps the roof like a thermos for a very tight structure. No rafters will interupt the insulation like conventional stick framing.

The dining room table is coming along great. It's so nice to get back to doing what I really enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I have loved every minute working on this shop but I could not keep up that pace full time.

After sanding the curly maple top I sharpened my card scrapers and put the final finish on. The photos show how slick the surface is after scraping.I pull the scraper toward me at a skewed angle which leaves these curled up shavings. The scraper is tuned pretty good but I re-sharpen often. The curl really stands out after scraping away all the scratches left by the sandpaper. This is important because the water based dye will show every scratch but will also make the curl pop.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Much Needed Space

Many people have asked why I'm building a new shop. Well as you can see in the photo of the table base I am at my limit of space. Also the concrete floor is cold and hard to stand on all day. The windows and lighting are insufficient. But most of all it just ain't cool working in a space made for a car. I joke with people sometimes and ask them why they park their car in their woodshop. Most people have at least a two bay woodshop attached to their home and don't use it.

Speaking of space, I just returned from Illinois with a maxed out load of 2'' rigid foam insulation to insulate the timber frame shop. I found this place in Sullivan, Illinois on the internet that sells factory seconds for 1/3 the cost of new. I saved about $1200 so yes, it was worth the 8 hour drive round trip. If you need insulation for a pole barn or whatever his web site can be found here .

Next week I am going to rent a 50' knuckle boom lift to safely get this roof done on the shop. I still lack some rough sawn boards on the back side then roofing paper to hide the silver insulation froim being seen from the inside. Then I'll add the 2'' rigid foam insulation topped off with 7/16 OSB. At that point I'll be ready for the roof shingles. I'll post on this later. Wish me luck.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Barn Raising Part 2

I thought I would add some more photos from the barn raising day to show some of the process we used to get this thing together. Everything seemed to go right up with ease. Everyone was in sync and performed as if they had been to many barn raisings. So much for worrying about the weight of red oak timbers. These guys could have done anything that day and I haven't even fed them yet.

I like this picture of us moving the gyn pole into position. It reminds me of the Marines at Iwo Jima. The gyn pole was 18' tall with a fork at the top to hold the block and tackle. We used it to raise the top plates on to the bents. It worked very well and the price was right too. Who needs a crane?

This was the point when setting the top plates that I was sure something would not go together but it did. With 44 mortise and tenon joints that were cut weeks apart from each other I must have been lucky.

On the last top plate we had to pull the rope through the door of the pole barn. Something just seemed very funny about this but it worked.
Overall it was a great day with perfect weather, great food, and the best volunteers. Thanks again to everyone who worked so hard. I have been truly blessed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wrap it Up Tight

How do you finish the outside of a timber frame structure? I hate to cover the beautiful timbers but the weather says I must. If I used 2x4 studs framed between the post I would lose sight of the interior timbers to interior walls. The best way to insulate a timber frame is by adding all the layers outside of the frame itself. I will start by nailing 4/4 rough sawn oak to the roof and exterior walls. Then a layer of black roofing felt followed by 2" rigid foam insulation. Then a layer of plywood sheathing followed by siding and roof shingles. The interior of the timber frame remains fully exposed and the insulation is not broken up by 2x4 studed walls which gives a better R-value. So all I will see inside is oak walls and timbers. The exterior will have lapp siding with a brick base. With the windows and shutters it will look like an old colonial house.

O.K. maybe I am getting too far ahead here. I purchased a Woodmizer sawmill back in 2006 after a tornado devastated my area. I had access to lots of timber that the city would have piled and burned. I cut lots of 4/4 oak and stickered it away in the pole barn. I have thousands of board feet of this stuff and finally have a use for it. It took a little over a thousand board feet to cover the roof. I still have to do the walls but I am still working on the placement of windows and doors. I have to add some 4x4 posts where the windows and doors will be then I will add the horizontal 4/4 boards. Sounds like a lot of work because it is. I am having the time of my life building this shop but it's nice to get back to furniture making. The rest of the week will be devoted to a curly maple dining table.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tha Barn Raising

Well we did it. The barn raising was a fantastic success. I couldn't have had a better group of people to make this happen. I had to add this old picture to see the similarities. I think we were all too tired for some to climb up top for the group photo and some had to leave before we took the group shot but we all had fun and a day to remember.
Thanks again for all the wonderful volunteers. Also to Kenny, Carl, and most of all Bill Nelson who's dedication to this project has kept me going. These guys know what hard work is all about. Bill, I hope the sore muscles heal soon.
I can't leave out the hard work that Shawn Lance has put into video editing and a time lapse of the raising that I will post as soon as it is ready.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Uplifting Moment

I managed this week to lose both of my tents that have sheltered me from the sun during this whole process of timberframing. One of the tents was secured with concrete blocks at each corner and I was holding on to a leg when the wind ripped it from my grasp and sent it rolling through the field. Looks like lots of sunscreen til the raising day next Saturday.

Here is my 9 (almost 10) year old son Logan using his favorite tool the "commander". It is also called a beatle or mallot. It can get the job done of knocking the beams together. He has taken a lot of interest in this project and says he too wants to be a chairmaker someday, will see.

For all of you coming to help raise the shop don't forget it will start around noon next Saturday, August 29th. Please bring sunscreen, gloves, camera( for the big group photo), and swim suit for those who want to swim. We will have a celebration with dinner and snacks Saturday night. I hope to see you there. It should be great fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Bigger the Joint the Bigger the Tools

Time is drawing near to the barn raising. I have really enjoyed my time working with these oversized tools. They have become somewhat comfortable in my hands over the last several months and it seems almost sad to know soon they will be put away, but not for good. I know better than to sell these tools for another timber frame addition or building is always possible.

After months of planning and cutting timber and now putting the bents together the excitement of the raising is starting to build and at times a sense of panic sets in. The frame is of red oak which is extremely heavy. Hundreds of years ago a bunch of farmers would get together who were use to daily hard lifting and work and raise a barn by hand as a necessity. Now days we have cranes which can take the place of many people. Can a hand raising of red oak still be possible today? What fun would watching a crane do all the work be anyway? As these thoughts pass through my mind I can't help but think a community of people from many different backgrounds can come together and make the impossible possible. I think a lot of us would like to go back to see what it was like hundreds of years before 9-5 jobs and fast food chains. Maybe those who come to this barn raising can get a taste of what it may have been like back in "the good ole days". Maybe we can prove our "good ole days" are now.

Friday, August 7, 2009

White Oak Gold

I just returned with the last load of timber for the new shop including braces and misc. framing material. I also cut a nice White Oak for windsor chairmaking. I shot a short video while Bill cut it down. It was very straight and clear which should split and rive into a lot of nice chair parts. This tree was 18'' inside the bark at 5' off the ground. It was 34' to the first branch but the clearest part was only 16'. Plenty of wood to last awhile. I always look forward to splitting a fresh new log. It's hard work ( especially when it's 95 degrees) but makes good sleep at the end of the day. Stay tuned for pictures of inside this beauty.