Monday, November 1, 2010

What might have been

The Cuban mahogany box is now in the care of UPS, speeding to Seattle for a just-in-time appearance in the Annual Box Show at Northwest Fine Woodworking. The last few days had more adventure than I might have wished, including an out-of-proportion circus concerning the bottom of the tray.

I like to open a box and find a prize inside, kind of like Cracker Jacks. Lacking time to make an elaborate tray I scoured my wood supply for something special and stumbled on some maple left from a tree taken down for the renovation of Kearney Hall at Oregon State. Most of that wood went to a gift commissioned by OSU for the major donor in the project:

but a single sawn veneer remained. Its strong graphics complemented the Macassar ebony of the tray sides and provided a satisfying surprise when the lid was raised. I made up a panel with the veneer (an overnight stay in the vacuum press), but it tore out badly when I planed it to thickness the next day. I tried to remove the tearout in the usual way with a handplane, but the panel was small and warped slightly from the pressing and resisted. 

Anxious to get this minor piece of the project complete, I tried to emulate my friend Bill Storch--who can perform miracles with a belt sander--and safely sand the tearout away. The panel tried a new trick: each time I sanded a side, the panel would warp the opposite way, presumably something to do with the heat that sanding generated. Stopping often to check the work and flip it for a balanced result, I gradually removed tearout until, just as the last torn fibers were disappearing...a ghostly pencil mark appeared in the center. 

A pencil mark? How can a pencil mark appear while sanding? Sanding makes pencil marks disappear, and anyhow there wasn't a pencil mark in the first place. Except for one on the side I had glued down. 

Bad words. 

Yes, even though there appeared to be plenty of margin when checking the process, the center had become so thin that you could see the pencil mark on the glue face, and the bland face of the core. 

It would have been nice,

but no luck. I thought about inlays and various other fixes but the sand-through was in an awkward spot and there was nothing to do but cover it.

This was probably my favorite option:

but I wasn't sure the gallery would approve, so I went conventional in the end, shown here with the chisel used to carve the handles:

In this close up you can see a bit of the striped Macassar that I liked with the sadly unusable maple.

And here is one of the handle/pull/grabber-do things.

I started using these after watching everyone lower the lid on my madrone box (pictured in previous post) by grabbing the corners even though there is a perfectly good handle in the center. They are also fun to make, though they resist being finalized; I recarved them slightly three or four times after applying the finish, the last time barely an hour before packing it to ship. They need to be just so. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fine old Cuban

Mahogany that is. An odd shaped scrap broke from the end of a big plank where a bark inclusion had weakened the connection. I need wood for a entry to the rapidly approaching box competition at Northwest Fine Woodworking, a great Seattle gallery. This material is famous for its good working it's off to the races.

It's hard to see but a big knot makes much of the scrap unusable. On the other hand, when I opened up the plank there were nice pin knots next to the bad knot.

There they are behind the corner I just finishing sawing.

I also decided to taper and curve the corners of the box. However, given the schedule I will refrain from doing that to the inner shoulder of the dovetails, which would add many hours of work as it did to this box:

Starting to look like a box

Here's the top, some bigleaf maple burl left form a box for my big sis Colleen. And more pin knots, why not! I'll blend them somehow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Well whadyaknow?

A cabinet I built a few years back...this one:

has been published in "500 Cabinets", a recent release from Lark Book's series on contemporary craft and art.

Can't complain about that! Only 5 billion more publications to catch up with Sam Maloof (rest his soul), a real woodworking hero.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What do you see?

A recent piece in English walnut and Oregon white oak--a lap desk for a Benedictine Abbot. The walnut is so graphic it was like a week long Rorschach test. Depending on the orientation I saw a heron, sturgeon, lion, horse, pelican, lobster claws...but at least no partridge in a pear tree.

The pulls are Macassar ebony. Since everyone seems to handle box lids by the corners, I put the handles there--so now they'll use a credit card to pry it open at the middle!

I'd like to use this wood combo again--they both work very nicely.



The Narnian campsites are somewhat spartan, but Reepicheep would not be fazed:

Meghan the Bold, faithful co-explorer, after an unexpected encounter with lake-effect gravity:

And the feasting was grand...peach pie at 10,000 ft. sped Meghan's recovery. 

If these bear a striking resemblance to Ediza Lake in the high Sierra near Mammoth Lakes, and the smokin' fresh peach pie at Saddlebag Lake, that's just a mighty big coincidence.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I must have slept soundly

Hiking past campers at Clark lake early the next morning, they said bears had visited camp and that they had used an air horn to drive them away.

"No, you're joking!".

"Not at all. We banged pans, yelled, and used an air horn."

I have to say the new sleeping pad is exceptionally comfortable.

Day 3 can be summarized as:

Thousand Island Lake. Foolishly, after several hours I hiked on, planning to return in a day or two. Five miles and dinner later I finished the day by climbing Donahue Pass (which had looked so distant the night before), wandering a few feet into Yosemite National Park to gaze down shadowy Lyell Canyon toward Tuolumne Meadows--it was uncomfortably close to nightfall--and dragging back to camp. I was dragging all the way up as well, looking for any excuse to quit, but the trail is so well graded it seemed lame to turn back.

Camped nearby were Doug and Joanne, serious travelers and keen on natural history, and we talked as moon and stars took over the sky. They mentioned that the Perseids meteor shower was still happening, and waking later I slipped on my specs just in time to catch a cross-the-sky shooting star. Nothing like luck; I usually see little during the Perseids.

Day 4 started with slow creekside ramblings in the upper Donahue basin

but ended with a slow gimpy five mile walk back to Thousand Island Lake after jamming my knee on a mis-calculated jump. Argh! Then again, any day ending at Thousand Island is not a complete Argh.

My trusty tent echoes the shape of Mt. Banner. Up here near the head of the lake it's not the cast of thousands camping just two miles away near the outlet (first photo).

Day 5 was a lingering morning at the lake, then a ginger ten mile march to the roadend, where I've since nursed the jammed knee with mochas and easy day hikes. And blogging.

What not to leave behind

Recall that the air was pulsing with insects. Many of them wanted my blood. I covered up what I could and reached for the mosquito repellent. Squeeeeeze...squeeeeeeeeeeze...oh no. Seems my DEET had evaporated, or maybe been sabotaged by ninja mosquitoes. Which brings me to

Day two: leave pack behind, hike back to road, shuttlebus back to car, drive to town, get DEET (and grab the pen, spoon, and cup I'd left in the car), have mocha, reverse travel steps--huff, puff--and after ~11 miles arrive back where I started the day (except now it's 80 degrees). Pack up, move a couple miles into trees and call it good.

Camped off trail at the top of a pass, there were no bugs.

The view from camp was nice: the largest Clark Lake due north, backed by peaks along the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park. When the US Cavalry had patrol duty over Yosemite--which then included the Mammoth backcountry I'm traveling through--they came via passes near the right hand peaks. A trail still goes through there, but the famous John Muir and Pacific Crest trails come this way via a pass just left of the leftmost distant peak.

The watering hole wasn't bad looking either. 

A friendly family camped in the trees purified water for me with a little Star Trek device that uses UV light to kill possible nasties. The owner had to put on dark glasses to use it. Fascinating what you encounter in the backcountry.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Not fair!

Barely ten months ago I was cruising 20+ mile days through the Klamath Mountains, Sierras, and Cascades. Ten miles of hiking after an early dinner was no big deal. I was often surprised at how light my pack felt. 

This trip I have not cruised any day, however short. And not once have I been surprised at how light the pack is--in fact I eye it with some suspicion. What the heck happened?

Day 1: Depart Devil's Postpile area 4pm for a lake six miles distant, a mere 1500 feet higher. "Casual" is the word I used with the ranger at the wilderness permit desk. Poor choice.

Three miles in my legs were so wobbly it felt like the trail was swaying; not firm earth but a rock-and-flower-littered tightrope. The honey colored air was thick with late sun and pulsing with insects and with my own heartbeat, a phenomenon I believe my eye doc calls a "visual migraine". As my head got lighter (alas, not the pack...) the entire scene was dissolving into a vivid amber solution. By the way, no 'shrooms were involved;-).

Interrupt: a hummingbird is working the flowers on the patio where I sit outside the invaluable Looney Bean Cafe and Therapy Center, but after each short sip it lands and rests, sometimes barely reaching a perch before the wings quit, panting w/beak held high. A rough day?

Back on trail: I swam on, inwardly repeating "strength in weakness". Around 8 the sun dropped out of sight, the colors drained away, and by 8:30 I made camp a whopping 5 miles from the trailhead. 


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mid Willamette Woodworkers Annual Guild Show

Wet glue. Tender finishes. Double stick tape. "Don't pull on this part" signs. Rebellious plywood.

What a show. I blame it on this:

the "one week" dining table, here a 5" tall model. I like the role that dining tables can play in our lives and have wanted to design one to reach more people; i.e. have a relatively modest price. A fine table--without compromise on quality or materials--in a week's work sounded tidy, especially if enjoyable enough in process and result to repeat from time to time. One evening some weeks back this model popped out.  

Now the deadline for submittals to the Guild show had arrived w/only two pieces on track to be ready: the desk (various earlier posts, a long and involved project), and a reproduction Shaker side table, revived from a traumatic misstep that had sidelined it a couple years before. Still a bit weak, I felt. There were nine days until the show, why not make the one week table? The little model sitting on my desk was still appealing after seeing it every day for over a month, so I emailed the submission, pulled some beautiful 5/4 boards for the top, and got to it. 

That evening Ann gave me a "what were you thinking?" look. Whatever--I didn't see her (or anything else) much for the next nine evenings. The table required about 60 hours; what with dimensions to firm up, curves to sweeten, templates to make, knock-down hardware to fabricate, a new tool to sort out, and unusual stress and micro-checking in the planks, all on top of the actually making the thing. 

Oh yeah, and finishing the other two projects. Turns out there was a fair bit still to do on the desk, and the Shaker piece wasn't even half made. Thank God for double stick tape. 

But the results weren't too bad: 

A lovely three-board top on a trim yet strong base that knocks down in a minute for transport. I'd be happy eating at this table. Next time it'll take a week.  

The desk looked good under the bright lights too, as did the Shaker table just to the left by the love seat: 

All of the keyboard tray internals were held together by tape or unglued loose tenons. The Shaker table actually showed up the second day of the show, having been glued in the morning, finished after lunch, and delivered around four. Some cute person had already voted it best in show; what faith!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day Six plus a little

It was a really long day. 

Daylight Saving Time became official just as I hit the sack; 2am became 3am on my cheapy clock radio that magically updates itself. 

But lots happened.

I've never installed glass. It was nerve-wracking as I imagined the glass ready to break at any moment.

Not the worst cabinet ever made in a week. 

The funny lines on the glass are the pattern of "German New Antique". 

The pull is a temporary applied with the indispensable double-stick tape. 


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Days Four and Five

Day four suffered a picture shortage, but as planned I fit the back panel and door to the case. About 10:30pm the day ended with cutting the hinge mortises in the top and bottom of the cabinet. the router seemd scary so I used chisels and router plane, the funny looking item in the photo. 

Day five was a drive toward glue-up of the carcase; detailing, prefinishing, cutting holes for shelf pins. There were a couple significant design-as-you-go decisions, both involving the top. Mid-afternoon I added a horizontal detail line around the underside of the top, shown here:

Then at 10pm during a dry run of the glue-up it became apparent that the top needed a curving top surface, so I took the completely finished piece to the bandsaw and whacked away the offending material, cleaning it up with a handplane:

A small thing with a big effect on the piece. I'll have to refinish the top after glue up.

Then it was on to glue-up, in which I nearly destroyed the entire week of work; in spite of having done a dry run, during the real thing I glued the left side in upside down and backwards. I was breathing a sigh of relief and admiring the glued and clamped cabinet when I decided to lay the door in just to double check squareness. The door didn't fit, not even close...because the rabbet for the back--which was facing forward in the backwards piece--is an entirely different shape.

Deciding a fight was better than setting fire to the shop, I hastily took the clamps off, disassembled two and put them back together as spreaders, and pried the case apart. It was reluctant, but finally popped. I flipped the inverted side but noticed some dowels would have to be removed and replaced in different spots. They were really stuck; as I pulled and torqued with pliers the dowel twisted like a corkscrew.

Ultimately they came out, went where they belonged and my daughter Meghan walked in to witness a victorious reassembly, which I will accept as evidence of a merciful God.

Tomorrow: hang the door.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wall cabinet day 3

Started the day with case joinery. So far so good. 

Then doweling dyslexia hit - ouch!

Not what we need just now.

The backup piece wasn't nearly as nice, and after a few minutes a repair came to mind: slice off the front, slide it so the offending hole is out of the way, plane the edges for a killer fit and reglue. Here it is in clamps, with the offending hole magically moved.

While that dried I planed the curve into the sides after sawing away the bulk. Side light makes the shape easier to see.

Day ended with the first meeting of door and case.

Tonight the back panel is in the vacuum press. Tomorrow the door and back need to be fitted.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wall cabinet in a week


I did a prototype and rough milled the wood earlier, but by the time the wood had chilled there was a week. Here's a veneer being cut for the back panel.

And here is the wood resting up and de-stressing. It would have been nice to let it rest for a few more weeks...oh well.

Off to the races: Day 1

We have a whole week, let's do a curved door. Careful layout will pay off later.

End of day 1 - joints that fit juuuust right. Shaping tomorrow.

Day 2

Now we have some shape, and a chamfer w/a little movement. 

Shortening the tenon just a little makes the clamping easier. Fast, controlled, and clean with a plane and shooting board. Every home needs one. 

8:15pm: glue-up complete, motivational music by Sam Bush. 

Boy do bridle joints require a lot of clamps! And so fussy to make perfect; there are many visible joint lines on a bridle and they all have to be spot on. 

Used Old Brown Glue, a hide glue formulated by W. Patrick Edwards--strong, repairable, and does not impede finishes like a PVA glue...and there won't be time to deal with finishing problems.