Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bevel Up or Bevel Down?

The first time I used a draw knife was to build my first chair. Man were my hands sore and my thumbs were numb from gripping this tool learning and feeling it's power. I only thought I had control of this simple tool but was fighting what I did not understand. What I quickly learned was how the relationship between the blade and handles determined whether the tool should be used bevel up or down. From what I have learned over the years is that when the handles are in line with the blade then it is a bevel down knife. Using the bevel down knife gives you more freedom to cut coves such as the side of windsor seats. When the handles are not in line with the blade you use the knife bevel up. The flat back of the blade will ride along the long fibers of the wood giving you great control to follow the grain. The best way to check which knife you have is to sit down at the shave horse and pull the knife toward you till it starts to cut. At that point if your wrist are popped up higher than your hands then flip the knife over and try again. Your wrist should be in line or slightly lower than your hands and the knife should perform much better.

When making spindles for windsor chairs I like the control I get with a "bevel up" knife. Most of the knives I have are "bevel down" . Upon reading Pete Galbert's post on replacing the handles on his draw knives I saw my opportunity to finally fix all my knives to perfection. At least to me. I had 3 knives to repair handles and two of them to turn into a bevel up draw knife by simply bending the handles. Now I did the first one cold with no problems. If you have really thick metal you could use a small torch to heat the handles (after the wood handles are removed) to aid in bending. Just stay away from the blade so you don't lose the temper of the steel. The picture below shows the handle furthest away from you still in line with the blade and the handle closest has already been bent. It is not a severe bend at all and could be done with the wood handles on in a metal vise and padded vise grips. If you were to make a pommel knife by bending the handle straght out on one side then heating to a cherry red is a must or the arm would most likely break.

Here are some shots of one of the draw knives after turning new handles and bending to make a bevel up knife. After sharpening this $12 flea market knife really sings. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. See Pete's blog on how he did this.

Stay tuned for the restoration of uncle Kenny's adze. He gave this to me to use on the soon to be floor joist for the new loft. It had a tobacco stick for a handle and he used it to dig the weeds from the garden.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ready for the Trip!

The settee going to the museum in Ireland is complete. It will be picked up on Thursday to be shipped. I wish I could go with it .I guess maybe a part of me will.

I think the settee turned out good and has a nice look in its simplicity. I have learned plenty in reproducing this piece and inspired to try some new designs. I am grateful to the Tennessee Historic Society for this opportunity and I hope I can work with them in the future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chairs Old and New

The Rogan house settee going to the Mueseum of Ireland is coming along nicely. Below you see the one piece poplar seat being scraped. Although this piece looks very simple the complex drilling angles to match the original has been a challenge. I would love to know how they did this back in the 1830's. Using Peter Galbert's method of drawing sight lines and getting the resultant angles has really helped. Also scribing the line to the leg and drilling with one angle has become habit now and really keeps things accurate both sides of center. No more wind swept looking chairs. Thanks Pete, the results of your wonderful techniques will follow this settee all the way to Ireland.

I'll post the finished settee soon.

Last week I spent a lot of time at my parents house cutting down the big red oak. When searching around Dad's garage looking for splitting wedges and mauls I came across some family history. The chair pictured below was my grandfather's first chair when he was a child. The chair had been forgotten and left under the crawl space for the last 30 years or so. If I had to guess it probably is about a 100 years old. The arms are 2 different sizes and the arm posts are not an exact match. The original color seen underneath the seat was turqoise. I can't decide whether to restore this chair or reproduce it. It was cool to find it. My grandfather taught me many things when I was young. How to swim, how to draw and use oil and acrylic paints, how to play guitar, golf, and many other things but never chair making. He passed away back in 1986 when I was just 16. Now all these years later I will learn from him again by the study of this chair.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Goodbye Old Friend

Several years ago we were hit by a severe drought in our area of middle Tennessee. This was the worst drought I can ever remember. It killed many trees, shrubs, and gardens. One tree in particular stood next door to my parents home where I grew up. This tree seen below draped my parents back yard standing over 80 feet tall. The loss of this tree has made me think of all the times spent under its canopy raking many leaves from its branches, hearing the wind blow through the top during spring storms, and watching animals build homes safely up high. This tree has been a big part of my childhood but has gone really unnoticed. It's part of the landscape that I assumed would always be there. So this is my dedication to this old red oak. Goodbye old friend.

We cut the tree down last week for fear of it losing branches putting the children in danger. The tree leaned toward some homes behind my parents yard so we had to use cables, ropes, and a truck to pull it the safe direction. This isn't so hard with a small tree but 3 feet in diameter and 80 feet tall put some concern not only on me (who was doing the sawing) but on the nieghbors near by and Shawn who owned the tree. Below is the video that Shawn Lance took as the tree came down. Notice at the end of the video after the tree hits the ground the wisk of wind coming past the camera. It's sort of the last breath of energy the tree could give.

We were able to cut this oak on my sawmill. It will live on as floor joists for the lofts in my timber frame shop. Not a very romantic way to honor this tree but I will remember it everytime I look up. The 24 3x6's you see below came from one log.