Archive for ◊ March, 2010 ◊

• Sunday, March 28th, 2010

This is the introduction to a series of posts that will explore the process of turning an idea into a finished piece. The context will primarily be original work, as distinct from making something from plans or reproduction work.

For woodworkers, understanding the stages of the creative process can help us refine and better utilize it. This is the guts of creative work. For many of those who appreciate fine woodwork, there is a fascination in the development of a piece from something in the mind, to lines on paper or screen, to wood. How does something get to be there?

The outline of the series is as follows:

1. Introduction

2. Ideas

3. Concept

4. Wood

5. Research

6. Mock-up

7. Drawing

8. Building

It should not be inferred from this outline that the process is quite so linear. The stages can overlap, switch order, repeat, and sometimes be skipped. Furthermore, the very nature of creativity can generate endless exceptions to everything involved with it. Nonetheless, there is a generally applicable map that leads a woodworker’s journey from a thought to the existence of a creation that stands on its own. The finished piece reflects the soul of the craftsman/artist as well as the integrity of the process from which it arose.

For me, making things is fun and exciting. Please join me in the exploration! I will reference, as an example, a fairly simple, small piece – a wall mirror. This will avoid unnecessary complexity that might distract from the essential concepts, and it will keep the photography easy. Note that the posts in this series will not necessarily be contiguous because along the way I may get the urge to post on other topics.

• Sunday, March 14th, 2010

In previous posts, I described my router table and fence. They use a simple approach without router lifts, drop-in fitted plates, table slots, miter gauges, or proprietary tables and fences.

Yet upon noticing a handy-looking router table fence micro adjuster in a catalog, I was tempted. It looked straightforward enough. I studied the item in the store and figured, 24 tpi on the lead screw, well, let’s see, that’s 1/24″ per turn, 1/64″ = 3/8 turn, .004″ = about 1/10 turn. No gradation markings. . . forget it. It would not be easy to move the fence a discrete tiny numerical increment, and why else would I want a micro adjuster?

So how do I accurately adjust my router table fence? The answer is: as directly as possible, preferring consistency over absolute measurements, and using one-sided tolerance woodworking techniques which are easily compensated. For example, if I want grooves for a drawer bottom to be 3/8″ from the edge, I set the fence to a reasonably close 3/8″ and plan the work to cut all the parts with that setting. As an example of one-sided tolerance, to cut a rabbet, use the part that will fit in the rabbet to adjust the fence, adding just a hair of depth. The slight excess of lip is easily trimmed after assembly, whereas too little depth would require lots of corrective planing.

There are rare circumstances, however, when it is helpful to move the fence a tiny, specific numerical distance. If I make a cut with the router table and, for some reason, I do not want to alter the mating part to fit, I use .001″ resolution calipers to measure the difference between the cut part and the mating part and thus the amount I need to move the fence to accurately finish the cut.

I use one screw to attach an inexpensive dial indicator to a stick which gets clamped on the table with the tip of the indicator against the fence. The fence is then moved according to the direct readout on the indicator. It would be possible permanently rig a dial indicator to the fence and table but that would be too fussy for rare use.

Alternatively, without a dial indicator, to retract the fence, clamp a block to the table near the end of the fence to register the initial fence position, loosen that end of the fence, interpose a feeler gauge, snug the fence up to it, and retighten the fence. To advance the fence, set the feeler gauge against the fence, snug up and clamp the block against it, loosen the fence, remove the feeler gauge, bring the fence against the block, and retighten the fence. The increment at the bit is half the measured amount at the end of the fence. These procedures are far easier and more intuitive to do than to read or write them!

For bit height, I also like to work directly, but if a measured movement is needed, the very fine adjuster with marked gradations on the Bosch 1617 router works well.

In summary, I adjust the router table fence with direct, low-tech methods the vast majority of the time, and very occasionally employ simple methods using basic multipurpose tools (that I already own) to produce specific measured adjustments.

And I saved myself from another mind-cluttering, special-purpose gadget.

• Saturday, March 06th, 2010



I will be exhibiting my work at the Paradise City Arts Festival at the Royal Plaza Trade Center, Marlborough, MA, March 19, 20, 21, 2010 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), booth #233. Come on over if you have the chance.

This is a highly selective juried show with beautiful work in many media including ceramics, furniture, glass, jewelry, fiber, painting, photography, and sculpture. Many of the 175 artists from 22 states, Canada, and Japan are represented in major collections, museums, and publications around the world. Among its many accolades, Paradise City was named the #1 Art Fair in the US in 2008 by American Style magazine and is a perennial Top Ten pick. It is a tremendously inspiring place to be for anyone who makes or appreciates fine craft.

Heartwood readers, if the greater Boston area is reasonably accessible for you, I can tell you this is a worthwhile visit. Of course, I invite you to please stop by my booth and say hi!

Details are at the Paradise City website (that’s my cabinet on their home page). There’s also a little feature on my work in their print and online Spring Guide, page 8, and in their online slide show, “New Faces” (though I am returning from last Fall’s show).

For collectors and anyone who enjoys beautiful craft and art, including furniture/woodwork, seeing the work “live” is the best way to appreciate it and explore your ideas to acquire fine work. It is really the sophisticated and appreciative visitors to Paradise City that make the show!

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