Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter and the last day of the world!

  Winter is finally here and I guess the world will end tomorrow which is too bad because I just bought a gallon of milk. I hate waste. I have not posted in a while and I am sorry. Lots of interesting things are going on around the shop. Jet tools chose my shop to shoot videos for a new lathe they are coming out with. Nick Cook came up from Atlanta to set it up. He is a class act guy and really knows turning. It was a lot of fun spending two days with him and the good folks from Jet. I never knew how much it took to shoot a 15 minute video. Look for the video soon. I did my best acting of my career. I think we are going to do more videos on upcoming new tools.

  This is Ziggy and April at the shop each making a chair. They live at the Dancing Rabbit. They build cob homes and teach timber frame workshops. Check out Ziggy's blog "The Year of Mud"

Here is a table I recently finished for a local customer. It is a Nakashima style table out of curly cherry. A nice break from chairs to build something flat for a change. I really like this joinery he uses on his furniture. I would have liked to have met George Nakashima.

I have lots of chairs to build including a high chair, some sack backs, comb backs, and a walnut side table. I also have some classes scheduled. If you haven't done so already check out Kelly Mehler's school which may still have some openings. I'll be helping Peter Galbert and Curtis Buchanan next summer in two different classes. I promise it will be fun. 
For those of you interested in timber framing I'll be constructing a garden tool shed this spring. I'll be cutting the timber very soon. I also plan on cutting all the roof shingles on a new attachment for the saw mill. This is of coarse if the world doesn't end tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rubber Trees

Nothing puts me in a better mood than wood that splits and bends well. Today was one of those days. It started with two complete failures. True, we don't improve unless we fail first. I had some left over very tight grain white oak trying to bend some hoop back chair backs. These usually do pretty nice but this wood did not comply. My point of failure had to be due to floating the draw knife in and out of growth rings due to the fact that they were so darn close together. Yes, always blame the wood, right? About noon today I called my log guy in Scottsville, Ky. to see if he had the good stuff. He happened to have a yard full of white oaks but a buyer was coming tomorrow to get them all. So me, the trailor, check book in hand were heading north. Mitch, the log guy, has to be the most accommodating human I have ever met. He has never ending patience and the knowledge to help me choose the right log. He even knows the different species and which ones bend the best. "Get the one with the big flaky bark" he says. Loaded and back on the road in 25 minutes only $62 less in my pocket. I couldn't wait so I split the log on the trailor. Right down the middle with no twist. I bet both halves weighed the same. I continued to split until I had that 59'' long back piece for the hoop back. An hour later and I had complete bending bliss. I had found the rubber tree.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Harvesting Chair Material

Recently I just returned from Indiana harvesting wood for the latest chair class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. We cut some white oaks for bending and sugar maple for turnings. My good buddy Bill Nelson did the cutting and when he cut the white oak I happen to have a video rolling. I want you to see  how the pros do it. Remember, this is chair wood that we have to split for arms and spindles.

This tree ended up not being very good for chair making. It was very tough and stringy and full of small defects, knots, etc. We cut another white oak that split and steam bent fine. Pete Galbert taught the class last week and we had a great time. Everyone finished a chair and learned a lot. 
Here is a shot of the sugar maple we cut for future turning stock. We sawed it on the mill and I'll round up the blanks next week. Notice how white the maple is all the way to the pith. That's the way I like 'em.

Currently I am building chairs to fill some long over due orders and getting ready for the Tennessee Association for Craft Artist show in Nashville. I have also been cutting some really long and spectacular walnut crotches along with some crazy wide red elm and sassafras for seat material. I am looking forward to cooler weather.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Old and New

The last post showed the biggest Bur Oak in Tennessee blown down. Here is a photo of the same tree from Bob Dulany taken back in 1996. I was able to make a sack back chair from this tree. The back bow was bent from a young white oak. You can really see the color difference between the old and new. Due to the brash effect of this tree I simply could not get a bend without major failure.  Oh I guess I could have fashioned a strap but I ran out of time. The undercarriage and spindles and arm are from this tree. Look close at the arm and you can count almost 30 years of growth rings.The close growth rings are what made the bendings fail. The seat is elm from here in town. I didn't have time to wait for seat material to dry from the Bur oak. There is plenty of logs left from this tree and I meet with the owner next week to see what we can do with it using the sawmill.
Logan loves to split firewood. I mean, who doesn't? It is a relief of stress and a joy to pop apart straight grain fibers. Logan decided he needed a new axe and made his own handle. I have lots of tools that need handles and Logan needed something to do. (I guess the video games were getting old). He had a blast making this handle and I can see a future in chairmaking. I think he might be ready. 

  He is a lot more excited about the new axe than he looks. I told him not to smile so he would look tough with his new axe. He designed the handle himself and I must say it works pretty good.
 Here is the photo that Fell Merwin did of the chair I sent to the Custom's House Museum in Clarksville, Tn. It features my new carvings on the crest based on the Ammonite fossil. It also has crotch drawer fronts with locks. The arm, crest, and back spindles are white oak painted with milk paint and glazed with burnt umber oil paint. The rest is walnut. I won best in show in the traditional category.  Please check out the show, it runs through October.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lost Treasure

I think the picture says it all. The biggest Bur Oak in Tennessee lies behind me never again to shade the landscape as it had for the past 200 years. As you can see it was hollow way up the trunk and 80 mile per hour winds from a storm last Thursday night was just too much. When I heard about this tree it was if I had just lost a close friend who I thought would always be there. You can't blame anyone for this. It was just time for this tree to go. But it still breaks my heart to know I won't see this tree in town anymore. The mayor in town has already contacted me about making something special from this tree. My sawmill can only handle the branches so stay tuned to see what we decide to make.

On a happier note Logan's little league team the "Muckdogs" have finished the season undefeated, 12 and 0. Logan is the lead pitcher and lead off batter. Yes, I am a proud father. This was the last year Logan can play little league baseball and I will sure miss going to the park for games. 

I have several chairs to finish and build and much to prepare for in the shop. It has been so hot that working in the shop has not been so bad. I do look forward to lighting up the wood stove again.
The garden has done well this year and soon I will be building a garden tool shed based on the timber frame in Jack Sobon's book. Logan and I have been collecting flat stones for the foundation lately around the local creeks. I will travel back up to Indiana soon to start milling all the timber for the shed. I will post more on this later.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Inspired by Ammonites

Lately I have been working on changing the carvings I use on the comb back chair. I am making a writing arm chair out of walnut and white oak for a show with the Cumberland Furniture Guild and this will be the test chair for the new carvings on the comb and handholds. The idea came from a good customer who owns a vintage guitar store in Nashville. He has been telling me about how the carvings on vintage violins would be ideal for my chairs. He brought me an Ammonite fossil to see what nature can produce as a perfect spiral. There is something intrinsic about ammonites that is aesthetically pleasing to humans. Whether it be phi (the golden number), or the Fibonacci spiral (observed in galaxies) something is just pleasing to everyone. So seen below is what I have started. The famous Stradivarius violins worth millions use this same carving.

  I just returned from Bill Nelson's farm in Indiana with lots of white oak we cut into 2x's for a back porch cover for the shop and post for an extension on the pole barn to cover the saw mill. As you can see I have put off finishing the rear porch for long enough. The covered porch will be nice to put my steamer and maybe some firewood near the back door. Later this summer I will be cutting timber for another timber frame structure for a garden tool shed. I am having way too much fun.

  Several weeks ago I hosted the Cumberland Furniture Guild's spring meeting. The topic was sharpening chair tools, steam bending, and drill bit grinding. The shop has never seen so many talented artist. It was a great day and it was great to see everyone. I strongly encourage all local artist to join the guild.
 If you live in the Tennessee area I will be featured on NPT public television's" Tennessee Crossroads" next Thursday June 21st @ 7 pm central and again on Sunday June 24th @ 10 am central. It will be a 6 minute piece on what I do here at the shop. Please watch and let me know what you think. I do know I am not ready for Hollywood.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Busy as a Bee

 Recently I had Mac here for a continuous arm chair class. This was his first chair and he did a fantastic job. He completed it in 5 days with time to spare. Mac is a nurse in Georgia but lives in South Carolina and use to ride submarines. He also is a bee keeper and brought me some awesome honey. 

I will be hosting the Cumberland Furniture Guild Spring meeting on May 19th. All are welcome. The topic will be tool sharpening and steam bending. We might even do some turning or anything else someone might want to see. The Guild is a group of studio furniture makers as well as enthusiast who love the art of furniture. The meeting is open to all and will be from 2 til 5 pm this Saturday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Turning / Sack Back Class @ KMSW

I recently returned from a two week stint at Kelly Mehler's school in Berea, Ky. I was fortunate enough to assist Pete Galbert again. The first week consisted of spindle turning and tuning chair making tools. I brought all the materials which included the maple logs you see below. Students were able to turn green maple freshly split from the log by yours truly. It was a great work out.
Kelly had 9 lathes set up in the machine room. Everyone seemed to enjoy the sharpened tools with the maple. Pete did a fantastic job building everyone's confidence.

I was really impressed at how far the students improved with their turnings as the week went by. Pete has a natural ability to get people to turn with ease.
The second week involved making a Sack Back windsor chair. During the week Peter had me building his ratcheting shavehorse ideas. My new horse was the guinea pig and man did that pay off. Below you can see one of the prototypes. This version failed due to a weak section of walnut. A newer version in hard maple and we were in business. The final shave horse felt perfect while shaving spindles and was solid as a rock.

Everyone left with a completed chair and a smile. This was a great group of chair makers.

Peter had all the students sign the bottom of the demo chair which he painted and presented to Kelly at the end of the class.

Thanks again Kelly and Pete for another awesome class.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Table Class Offered

Recently I had 3 students in a Sheraton style table class here at the shop. A small walnut table with a crotch front dovetailed drawer. The legs were turned and the dovetails were cut by hand. Mortise and tenons and a good lesson in padding shellac. Overall the class was very successful and they learned a lot about hand tools and taking raw lumber to a finished piece.

Here below you see Keith, (me standing), Pete, and Skipper. They were a great group of guys to teach. They were all very focused and fun to cut up with. I think I will offer this class again in the near future. It is a good break from chairs but I look forward to getting back to curves and angles.
I just returned from Berea, Ky. at Kelly Mehler's school helping Peter Galbert for two weeks of turning and chair making. I'll post some pictures very soon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Delta Sun Farm

I would like to introduce you to my new neighbors Mike and Caitlin. Mike made a hoop back chair with me here during Christmas. They are starting up a CSA ( Community Supported Agriculture) which will supply the locals with organic produce, fresh eggs and pork.

They have a beautiful 13 acres to plant and raise their pigs and chickens.

Here is Mike tilling up the fresh ground. This week we are building a greenhouse so they can start their seeds for next spring. I am looking forward to see this process. I have always wanted to learn organic gardening from a pro. Check out their blog and join the CSA if you live nearby.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Logan's First Dovetails

My son Logan came to me a while back wanting to make a lap desk so he could have a place to read, do homework, or draw, write, etc.. I told him what was involved and how you had to dovetail the box together. He picked out a piece he found in a shaker furniture book. After I cut out everything and set up to dovetail the sides I decided to get Logan involved and before I new it he was chopping away and with great success.

I don't know who was happier, me or him!
I'll post the completed piece later. It turned out nice and he uses it every day.
The stairs and loft came together fast and has proven very useful. I now have the band saw upstairs hooked to a shop vac. I ran lights and plugs everywhere and have another shop vac hooked to the lathe downstairs. All I have to do when sanding on the lathe is hit the switch and all the dust is sucked away and the noise is upstairs. Notice the brace has been cut away going up the stairs. I guess people watch their feet when climbing stairs because everyone seemed to smack there head on it so it had to go.
About a year ago I ordered bench vises from "Benchcrafted" and a couple weeks ago I finally started building the bench. I reduced the length to 6 feet from the plans. I walk around the bench a lot when carving seats and 8 feet seemed too long. I think it went really well and this bench should not dance around when I carve tough seat blanks (elm).
I still need to wipe on some oil finish and make some dogs. The vises are very strong and seat blanks do not slip in the face vise. I have several classes coming up and look forward to breaking her in right.