Archive for ◊ October, 2016 ◊

• Monday, October 31st, 2016

live edge wood

The rustic look of furniture featuring a live edge board currently has wide appeal, as it seems to draw a response even from those people who otherwise pay little attention to the intrinsic beauty of wood.

Here are two uncommon options for designing with live edge wood: let the natural “path” of the board’s live edge guide the whole structure of the piece or, similarly, determine the shape of just other components of the piece. The live edge can be followed loosely or closely.

In the small table above, the front rail in ash follows the general sweep of the live edge of the walnut top. As with other pieces, I carefully striped the bark and prepared the live edge to retain almost all of the organically interesting wavelets. Thus, the live edge follows the peaceful flow of the ash rail but also presents an exciting contrast in form.

The rail construction is a bent lamination. I worked out the angles and joinery in a full size drawing because they were trickier than I first imagined.

In the wall shelf below, I again preserved the undulations as well as the fine ripples in the curly big-leaf maple board. The pear drawer front is a rare specimen with exquisite flame-like heartwood. As seen in the second photo below, I matched its contour to the waves in the maple’s live edge.

live edge wall shelf

live edge design

The photos of this piece are a bit weak but the actual piece projects a distinctly “live” feel. I really let the wood “design” the piece.

These are just some ideas for working with live edge wood. Though they involve a lot more trouble in construction, the wood is inspiring and sustaining.

wall shelf with drawer

Category: Wood  | 5 Comments
• Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

woodworking library

Wendell Castle once commented that often not enough time is spent designing a piece. The same can be said of researching a piece.

Unless you have previously executed something very similar, neglecting adequate research can lead to a lot of wasted effort building a disappointment. The research phase of a project should be enjoyable as the possibilities unfold and your woodworking knowledge expands.

Here are four categories that require attention. To illustrate the breadth of research sometimes required, I have used the example of a wedding wine box that I recently completed. This piece had very special significance and I wanted to approach it fully prepared.

1. Function

Almost all woodwork is functional. You do not want the beauty of a piece to belie an inability to do its job. Think of it this way: making a bat requires more than understanding wood and turning; you have to understand baseball.

I researched all the dimensions of the wide variety of standard Bordeaux and burgundy bottles to design a versatile cradle that would accommodate a range of bottles. I also had to learn about how wine should be stored long term.

2. Materials

This is not an area for guessing or shortcuts. Processes that are routine in one wood can be fraught with surprises in another species. What’s more, nearly every project involves several non-wood materials that woodworkers have to understand.

A few boards of gorgeous curly ovangkol (shedua) caught my eye. I had not worked with this species before, so I needed to explore the range of figure it had to offer to be able to choose top quality stock. I looked at objective data on its physical properties and movement characteristics. Most important, I did some practice sawing, chiseling, and planing to appreciate its working properties. It was surprisingly incompressible and somewhat brittle so there was very little margin for error in the joinery.

I considered lots of options for secondary woods, settling on wenge and a billet of killer figured redheart big-leaf maple. I trialed finishes, tested glues for special situations, and also researched leathers.

Then there’s hardware. Ugh. There are always oodles of options here, though often I am not happy with any of them and end up modifying or at least fine-tuning the best available materials.

woodworking research

3. Constructions

Almost every piece I make involves at least one modified or non-standard construction technique. It really helps to consider solutions that other woodworkers have used, though it is important to use sound principles and experience to distinguish good information from bad.

If you never venture from the conventional, you miss out on a lot of fun in woodworking, but you must build right, so do your research.

In this project, I could not find a satisfactory solution for a cradle that would snugly hold a range of wine bottle sizes. What I worked out is no marvel of engineering but I did have to sit at the drawing board for a long time scratching my head, and make mock ups, before settling on a solution.

4. Techniques and Tools

Similarly, every project is an opportunity to develop as a woodworker by learning new techniques and reinforcing skills that you have used before. A good woodworker should never be too proud to practice even those skills that were acquired some time ago.

And yes, there is also the excuse – oops I mean perfectly valid reason – to buy a new tool, which, by the way, has to be studied and tuned. In this project, because I did not do enough research, I needed the excellent Lie-Nielsen drawer lock chisels to bail me out, as mentioned in an earlier post.

In summary, researching function, materials, constructions, and techniques/tools is smart woodworking. Note to self: don’t cheat on your homework.

Category: Techniques  | 3 Comments
• Tuesday, October 04th, 2016

miscellaneous thoughts

Two nearly magical things in the woodshop are sharpness and good lighting. They are easily neglected, yet you are instantly a better woodworker when you attend to them.

I think most of us have an inner Jobs – the idea guy who will not be bound by conventional limitations – and an inner Woz – the engineer guy who sweats the details to get things done in the real world. It is best to listen to both of those inner voices for meaningful, creative projects to get done.

It is just a matter of personal preference, but I keep my shop neat out of necessity since it is rather small but more so because the orderliness helps keep my mind clear while working.

What should you build next? May I suggest this: that which you really, really want to build; what powerfully compels you; what will have lasting meaning to you. And I bet that is not another box for your chisels – so skip that.

When you make a mistake, what you do afterward is probably going to have the greater effect on the project. Is this a bump in the road or a catastrophe? Pause and assess.

Parasitic vermin who rip off blog content to populate their bogus websites are thieves, plain and simple. Please do not patronize their sites.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hand tools, but I bet very big machines were used to fell the tree, saw the log, and so forth. Our essential reasons for using hand tools are largely different from those of woodworkers in the 18th century. My point is simply to keep things practical and avoid purism. We can improve on the 18th century.

Brace yourself, here is a Beatles-style song created with artificial intelligence. Yes, it is awful, because it is a conglomeration of formulaic snippets with no consequential cohesive structure, no grande ligne, and hence, no impact. That is a powerful aspect we humans can bring to a creative work. Don’t be artificial.

Being cognizant of whether you are shaping wood (e.g. squaring, flattening, cutting a joint or curve) versus smoothing the surface of wood, or both at once, is a simple habit of mental clarity that makes woodworking processes more directed and reliable.

I just do not get tired of wood; I love it. This too:

White Mts.

Category: Ideas  | One Comment