Sunday, January 28, 2007

Milk Paint, Oil, Wax, and Steam: Finishing Challenges

Since nothing happened in my shop this week, I'm posting about a friend's experiences. Brian attends the North Bennet Street School Furniture and Cabinet Making program in the North End of Boston, and I'm envious. That said: He's been working on the Shaker table that is the first big project for students there, and is having finishing challenges.

First, he used a milk paint and wax finish on the base. His plan was to paint the base, apply a coat of oil, and then wax it. One of the second years talked him out of the oil coat, saying it would just add time for no benefit, but in Brian's estimation that was a mistake: He skipped the oil and found that the finish looked somehow cloudy. So he stripped the wax, applied the oil, and then reapplied the wax. The new finish looked right. Moral: beware the experts (or at least make sure they are experts).

The second problem was a dent in the cherry top: while it was in the finishing room, something must have dropped on it. He returned to find a dent in the top, which he knew would show through the finish and make the top. When last we talked, he was planning to steam out the dent. This is not as easy as it sounds, since there were 8 coats of Shellac already on the top when it got dented. He will have to strip the finish, steam the dent (hopng none of the fibers have torn) and then reapply the finish. I encouraged him to stick with the shellac/Waterlox finish instead of taking a shortcut and just Waterloxing. We'll see what he decides.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Knock-down Stool by Mike Lyon

Check out this knock-down stool, designed and built by Mike Lyon. This is a beautiful piece of design and workmanship. Since I'm planning to build knock-down furniture for camping (beds, tables, and chests) the method of assembly is especially interesting.

My other major inspiration for knock-down furniture is Viking Bed Design.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Finger Pull Failure? Fixing a Double Mistake

During December I built a couple of dove tailed boxes. The second was a bit more adventurous than the first and in many ways more successful. My favorite detail—a sinuous finger pull that echoes the flame-like grain patterns in the box lid—actually resulted from compounded mistakes.

I had managed to plane the wrong angle on one side of the lid, making the lid visibly lopsided: the flat section was not remotely centered. I thought (wrongly) that I might fix this glaring error by placing the finger pull in the center of the flat section, but this turned out to emphasize the error. It seemed likely I would have to start again. Failure.

I stared at it for a while, not wanting to discard so much work and such a lovely piece of wood. Finally the thought came: "Why not try something really different, to move the visual center of that pull back in line with the center of the lid?" It worked beyond what I'd hoped, and I'll bet that if you didn't know the flat of the lid was off center you probably wouldn't notice because the pull draws your eye. In this case failure freed me for success.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

1/4" Hardboard: extinct?

The local big box stores have stopped carrying 1/4" hardboard. It now seems to be a choice of 3/16" hardboard or 1/4" MDF. So I've substituted 1 @ 2' x 4' x 1/4" MDF on the list of radial arm saw table parts.

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Radial Arm Saw Table

With the help of my friend Sean, the parts list for the Radial Arm Saw table is complete:

1 @ 24" x 48" x 3/4" Finnish Birch Plywood
1 @ 24" x 48" x 1/2" Finnish Birch Plywood
1 @ 24" x 48" x 1/4" Tempered Hardboard
3 @ 6' x 1/8" x5/8" Steel Strips
Bottle of Wood Glue (at last, something I have just lying around)
2-3 packages of 2 part Epoxy.

I also need to check how the old table is attached. I might need 4-6 threaded inserts for mounting the table. The list is the easy part: now I need to run around getting all this stuff and put it together.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adam Cherubini Blog

There's a new blog from Popular Woodworking: Arts & Mysteries with Adam Cherubini. This one so far has a serious focus on theory, and the entries are well written with great graphic support. If you like Chris Schwartz's posts at Woodworking Magazine, I'm thinking you might also like the new blog from Adam.

One of the posts is a good entry on the Golden Section, which I'm going to go back and add to my post on the Fibonacci Series.

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Friday, January 5, 2007

Project Lists: The Drawing Board

Over at Blanchard Creative Woodworks I saw an idea I liked: The Drawing Board, where current and prospective projects are listed and updated as they are finished. Scott seems to have tired of (or forgotten) the update of this feature, but I thought it was neat.

So I'm going to give it a try, using this single blog entry, originally entered on January 5, 2007. I'll add a permanent link in the template, and use the lists below to track project ideas and completions during the year. I'm using four lists, that track things using David Allen's method from the book Getting Things Done. (A really great book for organizational thinking in day-to-day life). Don't blame David if this doesn't help me be productive: it's incumbent on me to actually use these lists ;)

  • Project Plan for Basement Remediation (outstanding repairs/upgrades)
  • Kitchen bookshelf for Anne
  • Garden cold frames
  • Rabbit house for Mr. Bun (a friend's rabbit)
  • Rout slots in sides of Cold Frame Lights
  • Make rails to prevent snipe on bookshelf sides
  • Cut plywood to size for sides and top of Mr. Bun's house
  • Inspiration ;)
  • Glass for the Cold Frame Lights
  • Knock-down Camp Benches
  • 17 Board Foot Furniture Build-off
  • Cross-star boxes for Grandma and Aunt Bonnie
  • Viking-style Double Bed
  • Bed Leveling for Pennsic
  • Woodcuts II
  • Inkle Loom Prototype for Production
  • More Dovetailed Candle Boxes
  • Medieval-style Cross Bow Prototype
  • Hazardous Materials Cabinet
  • Fibonacci Gauge
  • Traditional Workbench
  • Level/Repair Basement Floor
  • De-Stink Toolbox (replace felt?)
  • Piano Bench
  • Built in Desk for Living Room
  • Mailbox for Front Porch
  • Double Bed
  • Single Bed for GIT #1
  • Single Bed for GIT #2
  • Mastermyr Chest Recreation
  • Router Table
  • Tool Chest
  • Kitchen Pantry Shelves (built in)
  • Screen/Storm doors (side and back)
  • Shooting Board
  • Pallets for Starting Seedlings
  • Frame to Prevent Animals in Garden
  • New Roof Ring for Ger
  • Frame and Panel Ger Door
  • Knock-down camp table
  • Knock-down 6-board chest
  • Frame and hang new award scrolls
  • Upgraded drill press table
  • Miniature furniture for the girls
  • Tool Totes for me and as gifts
  • Radial Arm Saw table built, installed, and levelled
  • Repaired wooden bansai jigsaw puzzle
  • Repaired wooden stick horse
  • Woodcut block print I
  • New Doorsill and Header for Ger Door
  • Large Dovetailed Box
  • 3 Small Dovetailed Boxes
  • 17th Century American Box
  • Turned Mallet
  • Turned Awl
  • Inkle Loom
  • Combination Beater/Shuttles
  • Bed Fix
  • Sand Table
  • Wooden army markers for Pennsic strategy sessions

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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Fibonacci Series and Fibonacci Calipers

During a gift exchange in which I participated, one of the recipients received a cryptic object: four pieces of wood, three of them pointed, all rivetted together into a type of caliper. This turned out to be a Fibonacci gauge, used for laying out the ratio of roughly 1:1.618 (also called the Golden Mean).

This got me wondering about the Fibonacci series. A quick browse around the Web returned this marvelous video explanation of the Fibonacci Series, the standard Wikipedia entry, and an entry from Linsay Staniforth's (sadly inactive) woodworking blog. All are "fun with numbers", even if you aren't a mathematician. But the caliper is a practical application of that fun, allowing you to find and create golden ratios quickly and easily.

You can buy a premade Fibonacci gauge, but you can also make your own using this simple plan. Once you have the gauge, take a quick spin of the Wood Magazine video on using a Fibonacci gauge. I almost gaurantee you'll be as excited as I am about making or otherwise acquiring this little tool.

Picture by Keith De'Grau, courtesy of

P.S. Found another good post on the Golden Section.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Adjusting a Wooden Plane

Beginner's luck has run out. I'm having trouble readjusting my new Knight Toolworks smoother, and I know it is my fault. After a quick search, I found two tutorials on adjusting wooden handplanes. One at Knight Toolworks, and another at Jeff Gorman's site. I think my problem may be solved by the word "tapping". Am I hitting too hard? I'll let you know.

While searching I found an interesting interview with Steve Knight.

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