Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Next Generation

The other day I picked up my son from the bus stop at the end of the driveway (our driveway is almost half a mile long).After the usual questions about homework and how was his day I could tell something was on his mind. I had recently been working on a small walnut jewelry box for his girlfriend which had to be done right away. To my surprise he told me she broke up with him at school that day. I remeber how that feels and you want to take the hurt away but you can't. At least he hadn't given her that dovetailed jewelry box yet. Boy, 6th grade can be tough!
Let me introduce you to my son Logan. He's eleven (and a half). He is so full of life and loves to tinker with tools in the shop. You can see him below cautiously carving the front of a seat. What you can't see (or hear) are all the questions and comments as he works away. "Dad, why is the wood so rough right here? Dad where can I carve next? Boy this really hurts my arms. How far down do I carve? Can we make a bow and arrow now?" The questions are not much different than the ones my more mature students ask. Watching someone for the first time try to figure out grain direction is cool. It's something I do without thought but first timers go against the fibers every time. It doesn't take long for the wood to tell you what you are doing wrong.
I use to not let Logan pick up sharp tools in the shop but he has really taken an interest with the draw knife, spokeshave, and shave horse. The practice is priceless at his age to learn the nuances of wood. His mind is like a sponge.I wish I had this opportunity 30 years ago.

I guess we haven't done too bad as parents .Logan has such a big heart and strong mind. He is very respectful of his elders and likes to help those who are less fortunate. I would love more than anything for him to follow his old man's footsteps but whatever he does I know it will be great and with that blond hair and blue eyes I'm sure he will find a new home for that jewelry box.

Recently I commented to Pete Galbert about a method to grind the relief on the back of my draw knives. I was using rare earth magnets stuck to my tool rest but the magnets collect the shavings and tend to bind the knife as I work it back and forth on the edge of the slow speed grinder. I now just free hand it on the rest without any sort of fence which works fine. You could clamp a wood fence to the rest and apply paste wax to smooth the operation.I move the blade close enough to hit the back in the center and hollow out enough to aid in honing the back flat. Sorry I don't have a picture of this but it is very similar to Pete's method of sharpening the bevel. You only need to do this once and it's so fast and effective for future honing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Everything In Its Place

Organization has not always been one of my strengths. If you don't believe me then come check out my pole barn full of un-graded lumber or check out my garage shop after building a case piece. It didn't take me long (after sweeping expensive tools into the burn pile) to come up with the tool cabinet you see below. Modeled after Andy Rae's tool cabinet in "The Toolbox Book" from the Tauntan Press, it holds most of what I use while making chairs.

A quick glance and I know if a tool is missing. Forcing myself into these good habits has been very helpful. It keeps the bench clear as well as my mind. Now that I am getting more established in the new shop I am beginning to hang tools on the walls.

I have also brought my woodworking library and magazines out to the shop and designated a small area for writing, reading, or just deep thought (or a blank stare). This is the first time I have ever had all my magazines in order which can be so nice trying to find a particular article. Hey Pete, I have room for one more book!
Recently I had Sam Hughes from South Carolina come for a two day milk paint class to paint the chair he made in Pete Galbert's class last year. He chose the black over red technique which seems very popular among most. He stayed on the rest of the week and built a shave horse. This is the third class I have taught building the shave horse. Sam did a great job and will return to Kelly Mehler's this spring for another chair class with Pete. I'll be assisting Pete again this year at Kelly's. His school is always a blast.

Seen below is the finished sugar chest that I taught Ron Underwood to make. He was very happy how it turned out and wants to do more pieces in the future. I'm going to miss all those powdered donuts he brought to class everyday. Great job Ron!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Building Horses

Lately I have had a couple students building shave horses for a class they will take here in March. Pete and Bob live here in town so I'm helping them along to get things ready for the class. I have always been a big fan of the horse which Brian Boggs designed with the ratcheting head. It's a good size to haul around and seems to fit just about anyone with the adjustable seat. The plans for this horse is in Fine Woodworking issue #139. It is made from 8/4 stock and the widest board is 8'' but could be glued up of coarse. I prefer hard wood to pine for durability, especially the ratcheting part and clamping areas. We used cherry and maple since I had so much dry stock lying around. If you have built chairs without the use of this tool then you are missing one of the best ways to clamp and re-clamp wood quickly and securely. While pulling back on the draw knife through the wood you naturally push with your feet so it's a natural effect.

On this horse the only change I made was adding a place to rest the draw knife on top of the post. It just seemed like a natural place and the edges of the blade are not exposed while not in use. I guess it's sort of a tool tray. I still don't like tool trays on benches.
This past week I have had Ron Underwood taking a class on fine furniture. He wanted to do a sugar chest based on one he sold to the Tennessee State Museum about 30 years ago. Made from walnut the case features half blind dovetails. The base is mortised and tenoned with a nice crotch drawer front. These were the first dovetails that Ron has cut and I must say that half blind case and chopping the crotched drawer front is quite a challenge for a first timer but he did great. I always teach cutting the pins first which has always seemed more natural to me, sorry Kelly.

Ron will return next week to finish the sugar chest. Just so you know, the sugar chest was used to store sugar in the late 18th and early 19th century primarily in the southern states. It was stored under lock and key. The top will have breadboard ends with applied mouldings around the top and waist.