Friday, December 21, 2007

Carving Knuckles and Volutes: Peter Galbert

Peter Galbert just finished posting a series of blog entries on carving the knuckles and volutes on Windsor chairs. He describes the process carefully and accompanies it with clarifying pictures like the one above. If you've ever wondered about the layout and carving of these elements, take a look at these:
Photo copyright and courtesy of Peter Galbert

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fixed the Front Door Lock

Sometimes there's just time for life and all woodworking becomes a fix-it project. This morning it was extremely cold and our front door lock wouldn't lock from the outside. I looked at it and decided that the wooden door had contracted enough that the strike plate was plate was no longer positioned properly. Wood movement in action.

Thanks to a short conversation with my brother's neighbor, a professional carpenter, I thought I understood shimming well enough to fix this quickly. I removed the strike plate, cut a thin piece of cardboard (about 1/16" thick, and 1/4" wide), put it into the position under the corner of the strike plate nearest the door. In theory, this would create a fulcrum to force the holes of the plate closer to the door. I screwed the strike plate back in and turned the lock. Turns out I had the mechanics right: the door locks now and I did it all before breakfast.

We'll see if I have the opposite problem when it gets warm out and the door expands.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Round Over Edges for the Tensioner

I learned the basics of using Follow Me in Sketchup, and it solves the problem of creating round overs on the tensioner plan I've been struggling with. Now that I know how to use this tool, it's fairly easy. This task that has occupied at least 5 hours of my time can now be completed from scratch in under 5 minutes (with several mistakes). Here's how I do it:
  1. Draw a rectangle 1.5 x 6 inches.
  2. Using the line tool draw a section 1/2 inch long at the tip.
  3. Using the line tool draw a section 1 inch long on the right side.
  4. Draw a line connecting the two sections.
  5. Delete the resulting triangle.
  6. Using the Push tool, extrude the shape to 1.5 inches.
  7. Orient the object so I'm looking right at the square end.
  8. Using the tape tool, drop a reference line 12.25 inches from each side.
  9. In the top left corner, use the arc tool to draw an arc that runs between two intersections and tangent to the sides.
  10. Do the same in the bottom left corner.
  11. Select Camera, Standard Views, Iso.
  12. Orbit slightly if necessary to get a good view of the arc and the area it defines.
  13. Select Tools, Follow Me.
  14. Click on the small section formed by the arc and the corner.
  15. Move the cursor to follow the four edges that want a round over and click when they are all defined.
  16. Select Camera, Standard Views, Bottom.
  17. Select Camera, Standard Views, Iso.
  18. Repeat steps 13 – 15 for the bottom.
  19. Select Tools, Dimensions.
  20. Add dimensions as needed.
Having learned to do it so quickly and easily, I'm almost embarrassed at the amount of time I spent trying to do this with Intersect Selected and other means. But I'm super excited about the Follow Me tool, which will allow the creation of custom moldings and other details that I couldn't do before.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Quick Victory Celebration: Using Follow Me

You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about trying to use Sketchup to draw the tensioner for my inkle loom and again about how I learned a method for visually faking a round over. Well, I think that tonight I figured it out how to make the edges actually rounded. I'll try it tomorrow and if it works, I'll post about how it was done.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Woodworking Quote of the Day

"...the experience of seeing one's own ideas evolve was a back-of-the-neck tingling experience for me as a student. I discovered the "oh wow" adrenalin rush that, for the creative person, leads to the absolute need to make it!"

—Stephen Hogbin
from his forthcoming book "Evaluating: the critique in the studio workshop"

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dovetail Error #2

No, this is not a mock up for next year's jack-o-lantern teeth, but a real life example of cutting the tail instead of the waste. This demonstrates why you should always mark the waste, on both visible edges, before starting to cut and chop.

It almost makes me feel better that this error is over a year old. And it was a mock-up using scrap wood. And I was hurrying.

My New Year's resolution? Work smarter, not faster. The speed will come, and going slowly once is still faster than going quickly twice.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Warning About Magnetic Switches

I've always unplugged machinery before working on the motor or changing the blade. It seemed a bit overzealous, but machinery can remove fingers and more. You know: "It slices, it dices, it julienne fries." This is not what you want done to parts of your body.

Today a friend sent me a link that suggests there is more to unplugging your machines before working on them than just paranoia. I could not corroborate this information elsewhere on the Web, but the article describes how machines with magnetic switches can be tripped just by being bumped or otherwise shaken adequately. It makes sense. You can bet I'll be extra careful to unplug before changing blades. And I'll be looking for other sources that describe this phenomenon.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Dovetail Error #1

Notice the chisel (my thinnest) and how it compares the the waste area next to it. If your thinnest chisel is a 1/4", you cannot cut pins that run to the width of the saw kerf: your chisel will be too wide to remove the waste.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

References for Traditional Cabinetmaking

You can get access to great old reference materials over at All of it is interesting, but for woodworkers (as opposed to tool collectors) I think the most valuable page is the free links page, which lists interesting old books divided by topic. The scanned page above is from Thomas Chippendale's book "The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker's Director", scanned and hosted by the University of Wisconsin library.

While you're visiting Toolemera, stop by the blog written by the proprietor, Gary. He has a great review of Christopher Schwartz's new book Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction and Use, and other thought provoking articles about or related to woodworking.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Urban Design

When I was on my way into Boston a few weeks ago, I caught sight of an incredible piece of graffiti on the back of a truck. This graphic has form, motion, depth, and interest. Everything we can aspire to in a piece of art or craft. I couldn't help picturing a piece like this inlaid on a piece of furniture. It would have to be the right piece of furniture, but wow! It could be incredible.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

An Old Building Gets a New Face

I've been watching work on an old building that was donated to the Holliston Historical Society. The building isn't anything fancy, but it has a tower. Not long ago the carpenters started tearing the original skin off of it, and I wanted to get a shot of the frame, but as you can see I forgot the camera for a few days too long.

Watching this wooden building be refurbished reminds me that carpentry (and furniture making) is a curious mix of macro and micro details. For example: much of the siding we see in this picture looks poorly applied because the visible corners aren't flush. But don't worry. When they finish the skin, the corners will be flush-cut and end caps will be installed and perfectly fitted (I hope). The slop we see in the corners will be gone, hidden by the finishing details.

This same principle is used in furniture: especially in factory-made and older pieces of furniture, only the parts that are seen are finished to perfection. The insides of beautiful period furniture may still have rough wood or tool marks on the bottom of the desktop or back of the drawer. It doesn't matter, because that is only the functional part of the work.

The show is what we see. Backstage the work can be much rougher.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Village Carpenter blog

I found a new Woodworking blog that looks like it should have staying power. The commentary looks solid, and the work is great. Check out The Village Carpenter.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Youngest Woodworker at My House

Just look at the determination on her face. Yes, she is using what amounts to a toy saw, but she couldn't manage the big saw. This one did the job, as you can see:

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Mystic Seaport Shipwright's Shop Tour

A few days ago I posted about our trip to Mystic Seaport. Even though the shop wasn't running, I found it thrilling to walk through the observation deck of the shop and see a tall ship being built (or repaired?) right there. You might also have gathered that I was amazed by the Ship's Saw: a giant bandsaw on which the table remains level and the saw itself is adjusted to create the desired cutting angle.

If your mouth watered at all during that short photo tour, then you'll find a feast at Tom Daniel's blog, A Shipwright in Training, and especially in his blog entry about leaving Mystic Seaport, where he worked as a full time ship wright this past summer. The bandsaw shown above is another ship's saw in the Mystic workshop. The photograph is part of a verbal and visual tour Tom gives of the work space at Mystic. Enjoy!
photo copyright and courtesy of Tom Daniels

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Beautiful Old Lathe

A friend picked this up at a yardsale for ten dollars.

It's a nice little Goodell-Pratt lathe with good bearings and almost no rust. Sadly, it will not be used in his shop. Too nice. Too old. Happily, it will not spend time unloved in a leaky barn. Welcome to retirement, little guy.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Beautiful Project Diary of a Newport-style Kneehole Desk

Incredible work gets done at the North Bennett Street School. Here's a photo diary of the three-month build of a Newport-style Kneehole Desk made by a student at the North Bennett Street School. It gives a solid sense of what is required to build a piece of this quality and complexity. Look at the backgrounds in some of these pictures: you can see parts of the upstairs bench room where second year students do their work.
Photo copyright and courtesy of Pete Michelinie

Milkpaint Mohogany Recipe

Peter Galbert, the chair maker who writes the Chair Notes blog, just posted about how he makes milk paint approximate the look of mahogany.
"I have been trying to come up with a way to paint a chair brown without it looking flat. I have a beautiful mahogany railing in my house that served as my inspiration. I actually had to make some pieces to complete the rail and I didn't have any mahogany so I used poplar and my milk paint to make a solid approximation."
As you can see in his picture above, he has done a credible job. If you're interested, Galbert posted the exact proportions and colors he used.
Photo copyright and courtesy of Peter Galbert

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