A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Been a busy year!!

A new Era Begins

It has been over a year since my last post, with the final push in 2017 for my last year of real work, there was not much time for writing about woodworking. Since January we have been doing quite a bit of travelling to some very cool places, so shop time and blogging took second place.

Now that the warm weather is here, its time for me to settle into a retirement routine and find ways to stay productive. Lots of time for recreation and yard work, as well as plenty of shop time with some very interesting projects. During this past year I had completed a few small projects to keep myself engaged, some of which are below...

A small commode to hold mittens and keys,
with a special spalted Elm top.
A Cherry desk with Ash legs and matching
bowback Windsor side chair

A Curly Cherry block makes a great
base for these Edison LED lamps.

This Asian style tea box with Curly Maple sides
and interior tops from one piece of Cherry

My cycling partner just happens to be a guy some of you may know,
I made a White Oak pen holder for his desk in the House of Commons.

Of course I did quite a bit of turning!

Made a few Damascus knives from blade kits. Top two are
Thuya Burl and Brazilian RW for the paring knife.

We renovated one of our bathrooms this past fall, why buy a vanity
if you can make exactly what you want?

A new set of cabinets for the Laundry Room at my Son's.

Same Son, under the deck shed for yard implements.

A large size Cherry coffee table with opposing drawers and
storage cubbies. (Same Son!)

Atlantic Canadian themed Christmas
 ornaments shaped like lobster buoys

A variety of shaker-style boxes and trays.

A couple of large mallets from a piece of Lignum Vitae I was given.

A few gift boxes for an important upcoming event.

I bought this hammer head last year in UK at a show.
 Made a hefty handle from Cocobolo.

A few copper-roofed Cedar birdhouses for variety.

A small shaker side table, with Cherry base and Elm top

I guess I did get a few things completed after all!!

Keeping the brain occupied is important too...

And now to rekindle an old interest for me - writing. I have always done quite a bit of technical writing for my vocation, including a number of newspaper articles, newspaper columns, a computer science textbook, as well as a number of original articles when I was doing landscape and wildlife photography. Many years teaching computer science at a local university have kept these skills honed for me in the mean time.

I have taken a few stabs at writing in the woodworking realm, including Woodturning Online, which still hosts a number of my build articles. In the past few years, I had written the editors of a few of the North American WW mags, without so much as a reply to my emails, which was kind of disappointing.

My first major woodworking article hits the presses. A collaboration with
the awesome Kieran Binnie from the UK - on newsstands now!
Fast forward to 2018 and with lots of time on my hands to write, I took a more direct approach to getting this started. I got in touch with Kieran Binnie of OverTheWireless fame who has emerged as a clear and articulate young voice in the woodworking community; and we discussed a collaboration. The current issue of Furniture & Cabinetmaking, one of the premier woodworking magazines globally, published in the UK, has the fruits of our labours. The article’s topic focuses on rasps which have been of great interest to me since my time building guitars; during that time I had done some blogging as well as a few YouTube videos on how to use this versatile tool. Now woodworkers can learn how Kieran & I use these tools for themselves.

In addition, I am working on a couple more pieces for this same magazine, including my own project build piece scheduled for the fall. I hope to approach some other magazines abroad to gauge interest in my work in the coming months. Stay tuned for new developments in this domain.

Back to the shop...

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Live Edge Table provides challenges...

Another Dining Room Table project

It was the turn of the next son to have his dining table built and as always the design process was an iterative one. Lots of online pictures were downloaded, visits to furniture stores were endured, sketches were done and finally we had a design. This was to be my first foray into live edge furniture, which many woodworkers see as a modern day scourge which they abhor, some woodworking & furniture groups I subscribe to specifically forbid posting live edge projects; like its some modern day guerilla furniture movement - I am not that narrow-minded. I say "each to his own" and embraced the challenge.

So if you have read my blog before, you know what this means - its model time. I spent some time sketching it out and coloring in with watercolor paints to try out different combinations of colors on the base.

We agreed the vertical parts of the base would be stained black and the rest natural.

A few progress shots follow:

The pieces of spalted maple for the top had some wind in them, so to compensate, the pieces were
epoxied together with a bit of offset and the excess material would be removed to find the flat part underneath.

With as much as 1/4" of material to remove in opposing corners, I resorted to power to ease
the workload. This meant using my Festool power planer, connected to the vacuum, it turned
a potentially tedious and messy job into a manageable task.
Enter the hands tools next, once I had the top down to 1-5/8" thick and flat.

Using a variety of my planes I removed the power planer marks, and then proceeded to flatten the top.
I also used some colored epoxy to fill some major voids and checks to make it mostly smooth - not like glass but close. 

The top complete with a coat of sealer varnish.

All the base components ready for some assembly. The"Y"'s will be tenoned into the feet.
I chose an interesting live edge piece for the stretcher and tenoned the ends to fit into the ends. These would be
bolted using Lee Valley bench bolts and the exposed bolts covered with a false cap held on with magnets.
Test-fitting the modesty caps and drilling slotted holes to attach the top. The top will be
attached with lag bolts in waxed slots to allow top movement.

Fitting the base to the top - all good here and fully assembled this table has to weigh more than 200 lbs.
And the requisite high-res beauty shots.

In all her glory

Close-up of the unique base design.
We had some material left over which I wanted to use in a related project, so I turned these into a couple of accessory pieces.

A Lazy Susan using an offcut from the centre section of the table.

A segmented bowl to be used for whatever purpose is desired. Of course I made a segmented
bowl in 1/12th scale for the table - both these bowls have 27 pieces of wood in them.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Cranking it out here at the Sausage Factory

I have been mostly home since June so have had plenty of time to spend in the shop. There also has been no shortage of requests for an eclectic mix of projects. This post will show just how varied the things I get asked to build for friends and family.

Several of these projects are a direct result of the new house bought this Spring by my eldest. We did a gut-job on a bedroom that had some ungodly stucco-like material globbed on the walls. Lots of new flooring in the entire basement and some bedrooms, and a few woodworking projects.

First up is a sideboard to go with the dining set I made a few years ago for him. This provides some much needed storage in their expanded environs.

Painted and Stained Sideboard to match existing dining room set

 A fence to ensure the Yorkshire monster does not make an exscape from the compound...

Nice wooden fence to keep Rudy in and the Rakins out!


In an unfinished room that was to become the gym, we decided to enclose the power panel, to reduce the ugliness...

...and after.

Simple plywood sides and laminated pine-panel doors make short work of this enclosure.

He also needed a place to organize his sport equipment, so I made a stand to fit in the corner which looks like a pallet...

I made this from an old table...

Let the drill press do the heavy lifting.

And now for something completely different...

One Saturday afternoon in August I was perusing the woodworking blogs and saw a project where a guy used a Kutzall grinding wheel to rough out a bowl from a chunk of wood. I use this setup for grinding seats out for chairs and rockers, so I said "I can do that".

An voila another pieces of "bowl-ware" that I will need to find a use for.

A window to nowhere in particular
The kids are not the only ones requesting "off-the-wall projects" SWMBO wanted to recyle the windows we kept when we replaced the front door. I decided to install the sidelight piece in an interior wall to cast some light in the back hallway. This turned out quite nice.

She also had a request to make some props for the front step to hold some harvesty type decorations. I have been storing some western red cedar in the shed for years, so lugged it down, ripped it up and turned out a couple of sets of these. One set is going to one of the sons (of course) and the other will grace our entrance for the fall season.

It has been a busy, varied and glorious summer, time to move the operation inside. I have several exciting projects planned for this fall, so stay tuned.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Luthier is Out!

It's been a long while since I have done a project post due to a multitude of factors. I have been travelling extensively with minimal time at home over the past few months. Son#1 bought a house and needed my help on the few days I was home over that period, so the shop stayed more or less idle for a few weeks. The project featured in this post has been finished for a couple of months just waiting for some studio time to get some proper shots done.
My "Fretboard Bench" and Koa 000-14 #5

Instrument building phase complete Dave...

Probably more than 10 years ago, for a number of reasons, I chose to build a guitar. And as so often happens with my interests, it exploded into a full-on instrument building phase of my woodworking journey. When it was all over I had managed to complete 10 acoustic guitars, a Benedetto-style archtop, a couple of mandolins, and a few electric guitars and basses. Once this challenge was met and I felt I had achieved all I could with it, I stored my jigs and tools away to move back to furniture and other assorted undertakings.

The one key take-away I have from my instrument-building journey is that the level of precision and attention to detail necessary to build good instruments was well beyond where my skills were at the time. Today I have a better appreciation for what is necessary to do work at the quality that I can be proud of. I continue to tell my friends, if you want to take your woodworking to the next level, build an acoustic guitar, you will not be disappointed.

At the end of last year, I realized it was time to move out the dormant instrument building tools & jigs to make room in the shop. I got in touch with a young guy nearby who was starting up a luthiery business and we worked out a deal that worked for both of us, and I was officially out of the instrument-building business. I had given a few of the guitars I made to friends and family and kept the rest.

I did however, have one last music-inspired project I had planned to build and this Spring I made the move. I have not done a lot of mixed media projects in the past, but to achieve the effect I was after, I needed to do so. I chose aluminium as the metal of choice as it was easy to work with woodworking tools, it is lightweight and the colour worked for my purpose. The project was a bench which would look like the fretboard of  guitar. I had purchased the curly maple board for this purpose about three years ago and had been stepping over it ever since.

Fretboard Bench

The bench is made from soft curly Maple with aluminum "frets" and legs. Side dots and fret markers are Cocobolo.

The build of this was an interesting exercise as I had a very specific picture in my mind of the final product and needed help to achieve it. My buddy Joey the machinist would make the aluminium base and another friend in the metals business got me the aluminium strips for the "frets". Here's the studio shots of the finished project, followed by a few shop shots chronicling the build.

Working out the layout of the frets and dots. Using the width of the board as the base,
I extrapolated that to a scale length of 250" and chose a start of the 3rd fret so the 12th fret would fall within
the length of bench I wanted. The layout of the is shown as well.

And yes it must have side dots... and be tapered. I used my Festool track saw
and a shim to make two cuts to yield a 1/4" slot for the frets. It was much easier to line these
slots up while the edges were still parallel.

I wanted a simple design for the legs to minimise the distraction from the woodwork.
Here I am testing out the stability on some plywood to work out the leg spread.
These have a wider plate on the top which is screwed into the base.

Since this was to be true to the fretboard design I wanted to radius the top like the real thing.
A bit of a tradeoff between comfort and staying true to scale. I removed 1/2" at each edge to provide
a pleasant curve for the sitter and enough for the viewer to know it was radiused. After the board was tapered along its length
I used the track saw to make cuts of various depths the provide guidance on how much stock to remove using the planer.

I put red lines on the bottom of the long slots to help show up the depth to remove.
My jackplane removed the planer marks and started to establish a flattish surface for the seat.

Once the top was more or less smooth I fitted each of the aluminum strips into their slot and
radiused them on the bandsaw to minimize the material I would need to remove.

The frets were epoxied in and the cocobolo dots inlaid before the sanding phase.

Using a shop-made sanding block I spent several hours removing high spots and getting the smooth top I needed.

Final sanding with the ROS up to 400 grit gave a glass smooth top and textured the
aluminum to a matte finish.

A few coats of my goto finish of Watco Danish Oil natural makes the figure in the maple pop.