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.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rocker #2 - a most Special Build

I knew when I built my first rocker it would not be my last, its just a question of how long my attention span lasts before I need to move onto some other type of woodworking challenge - me thinks the next stage will involve carving - but that's another day.

This story starts with a challenge to my Dad to find me some nice hardwood from his childhood homeland, I told him I wanted to build a piece of furniture from it - not a lie, but misleading nonetheless - but for a good purpose!!

If you want to know where this is click here

Well between his brother Paul and himself he talked to a family friend who had a mill nearby and he thought he had "some of that birdeye maple", so the adventure began. Dad tracked him down and the visit was booked, we drove down and into the mill located in the middle of the woods. Sure enough it was there stuffed in the rafters of an outdoor mill for what I found out later was 20 years. As was typical for this part of the world, we spent an hour at the mill figuring out what I would take, all without the owner being around. Once I decided what I wanted, we drove out of the woods and over to the farm were he was working some cattle to negotiate the deal - he was very happy to take $2/bf for the wood which was a smoking deal, but I was not sure of the quality considering how long the wood has sat around and also how tough it was to grade the Birdseye in the rough - I would not be disappointed.

Dad organized his other brother's (not Darrell) truck and brought it down to the house. Thew wood was only air dried so it needed some time to dry out. This gave me time to build a couple of pieces from the Oak we got from the same brother into a couple of pieces of furniture, one for Brendan and one for Dad.

OK - back to this story....

All along my plan was to build a rocker for my Dad from the wood that was grown near his homestead - I could not have dreamed in my wildest fantasy this would be the result. While the pictures are very good quality, they cannot begin to do justice to how awesome this piece looks in the flesh. The creamy whiteness of the maple and the eyes just seem to pop off the chair and the mineral streaking only adds character, as much as I tried to avoid it. Here's the money shots: (as always click on the picture for the high-res close-up look)

Overall View, all Maple from this angle
Side View. The plugs and the accent strips
are Cherry which will darken up

Back View, the back braces are Cherry backed, not the grain
progression across the pieces. also see where the wood's figure
was not everywhere so i had to be strategic where I put the mineral

Back Brace Detail

Seat and arms in all their Birdseye glory

Another detail shot

There was not quite enough of the good stuff to build a complete rocker, so I had to add a couple of pieces to beef out the legs so I could makes them from the narrow boards. Also the material was not quite 2" thick which makes it tough to get the thickness one needs for certain parts. All in all, I am more than pleased, and so its its happy new owner...

The happy Recipient!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Couple of small projects

Needed to fit a few small jobs between the big Christmas present build which will be revealed in a couple of days when it it presented to its unsuspecting recipient.

I needed a place to store my new Harold & Saxon chisels as these will be used for only special tasks and stored in the drawer for the rest of the time. I threw these two boxes together in an afternoon which I hope does justice to the fineness of these tools.

Couple of boxes from Walnut, Birdseye Maple and Cherry veneer over the BB plywood base.
 Keeps them where they belong.

Heather also asked me to turn a few Christmas ornaments for her staff so I used the popular birdhouse ornament look to turn a few of these out on Saturday morning.

Birdseye Maple birdhouses with Cherry and Walnut caps, kind of went for the acorn shape.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Bench Vise Upgrade

I built my workbench over 20 years ago as one of my first real woodworking projects. It is what is known as a European style with a face vise and end vise with sliding dog block.There is lots of talk today about different types of benches, but this is the original and still my all-time favourite design.
I have never been one to jump on the trend bandwagon just because everyone is talking about it.

heavily cropped shot of original end vise handle

I had been tossing back and forth a few ideas with my machinist buddy and wanted a better solution for the end vise than the old style wooden handle I had replaced 3 or 4 times over the years. When the vise was being used the handle was constantly in the way with the wooden part in the wrong place, if you know what I'm saying.

We were talking about wheel design for a Moxon vise (more on that in another post), and I thought a wheel would be great for the end vise, the challenge was the apron is only 3 1/2" high and the post is centred which means a wheel of any size would protrude above the bench and interfere with its use. To solve this problem we flattened one of the edges and when the vise is not in use it hangs out of the way.
View showing relief cut in handle to clear material on bench top when
not in use.

Vise wheel with cocobolo knob from an old plane.

I also added a knob to the metal sleeve on the new wheel to make it easier to turn, this was a knob I had lying around for years, I think it was an extra sent to me by Lie-Nielsen to upgrade a plane. Glad to finally put it to good use.

This makes the vise much easier to use now, don't know why I did not do this 10 years ago.

The new sliding dog to replace the one that had split.
Needs a few battle scars - maybe I better rub a little stain on it!

At the same time as this was disassembled for the handle upgrade I built a new dog block, the old one had split along one of the joint lines as it was built from a glueup. This time around I used a solid piece of ash which should be stronger than the last piece and will likely be usable for the next user of this bench when I am done with it.

The other thing that I laugh at with the whole bench craze nowadays is the guys who need to keep their bench looking like new, and re-surface (plane) it regularly to keep it so. Hey guys its a WORK-bench, what's wrong with it showing that it has been used for the intended purpose?  My bench has remnants from almost every project ever built on it and that's what makes it a treasure.

I was visiting the kitchens at Chateau Chenonceau on the river Cher in France last year and the chef's bench had a big "swayback" depression in the middle from hundreds of years of butchering. Now that bench had a story to tell...that's what I'm after.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Archtop Guitar gets new attention

This archtop was built a few years ago, but a recent run-in at WIA with Chuck Brock of Rocking Chair fame and the Highland Woodworker show. Chuck interviewed me and it made the show, this was cool. I was wearing my Benedetto golf shirt and Chuck asked me about Bob Benedetto regarding an interview for the show. I felt Bob would be a great interview so I contacted him on Chuck's behalf. While Bob is not a friend, we did exchange a few emails when I was looking for help when building my archtop from his book. Bob was keen and it seems like we should be seeing him in the future episode of The Highland Woodworker.

My proudest build ever.
I retrieved the archtop and had my son shoot a current picture for submission to Chuck and he used it in this same episode of the show - very cool.

 This guitar is built from Bob Benedetto's plans and book, however the front styling is inspired by his 35th Anniversary Guitar and Bob helped with some of the execution.

Detail Shot of Archtop

The guitar is made from the best of materials from LMI, Carpathian spruce and German Flamed maple, the same materials, from the region that Stradavari used 300 years ago.

Click on the picture for closer look.

Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Harold & Saxon Chisel order has arrived

Today was a good day for my shop, as I was lucky enough to receive my order of chisels from Trent Powrie from Harold and Saxon in Australia. These are simply stated the best chisels being made today, using only the top grade M2 steel fitted with some of the finest wood choices and finish details available.

The fun part of this was that I had asked Trent to make these from something unique that no one else has and the choice was a surprise until they arrived today - I was not disappointed - he done good!

I ordered these chisels when there was still snow on the ground last year and have been monitoring their progress closely as they came together. The chisel set is the full range of bench chisels executed in rippled Australian Blackwood acacia melanoxylon which is stunning in appearance, matched with the gold-plated ferrules these are going to be a pleasure to use.
Harold & Saxon Rippled Blackwood Chisel Set

Every review I have read about these chisels gushes with enthusiasm and my quick tryout in the shop tonight is 100% consistent with that view. These are substantially larger than my Blue Spruce set and will be reserved for those projects where the highest level of precision is demanded.

The second set I ordered from Trent is a set of mortise chisels. I do not own a set of mortise chisels and have been thinking of buying a set for quite a while - I'm glad I waited as these are something else.
Harold & Saxon Desert Rosewood Mortise Chisel Set

These mortise chisels are made from Desert Rosewood alectryon oleifolius which is another nice uniquely Australian hardwood, these are quite heavy and will take quite a bit of bashing from the mallet, I look forward to a project I am starting very soon which will put these to the test.

Back to the shop.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Cutting Crew

Just a short post, now that I am back from WIA, after meeting many folks I have only known online for a long time. The show was great, wish there had been a few more hand tool makers, but them's the breaks.

Getting back into the building mode while working on the bathroom reno a bit every day.

Here's a quick project I just finished, it's a Japanese Damascus steel paring knife. I bought a few of these for Christmas presents and made one for myself to work out the kinks, this one is from a piece of Desert ironwood a friend gave me a while ago, finally a project to do justice to this wood.

Damascus steel Desert ironwood Paring Knife
Other side
Last year I made my first knives, some Outback style steak knives for my boys:
Last year's knife making experience - my first go at it.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

WIA here I come

I am preparing to head to Woodworking in America (WIA) tomorrow in Cincinnati, which is the Premiere woodworking event on this side of the pond. This will a chance to meet many of the online acquaintances I have built up over the years. This will also include many of the tool builders who have worked with me to build some of the nicest hand tools out there, I might even buy a thing or two...

I have not posted in a while, but this does not mean I have been idle. After finishing the oak table for my son, I built a similar table for my Dad from the same oak that came from near his childhood home - he loved it.

We are also doing a bathroom reno, so as those who have done these types of projects well know, this takes lots of time. I am doing doing most of the work myself, except the plumbing, electrical and tile, which I am subbing out.

Phase 1 - this is the framing for the new wall which will become the new bathroom wall
once the old one is removed. Half the work was re-working the hardwood floor pattern.

The new door (right) and hall closet framing to make room for the bathroom wall move.

Phase 2 - Now that the wall has been moved and the room next door finished, time to start destroying stuff in the old bath  which will be a complete gut, and the wall on the right removed to reveal the new wall behind it.

The before picture before Team Destructo showed up

Lots of dust as the drywall comes down, help from my two sons
 made this light duty and they had a ball destroying stuff
I avoided the heavy lifting!!

Starting to clean up from a dirty day - we removed 650 kilos of
material that got hauled to the dump.You can now see the new wall on the right
which makes the bath 15" wider.

The drywall installed - now the fun part begins with taping and sanding.
The recess for the mirror is roughed in.

This end will be a full walk-in shower with a couple
of niches and a seat - long ways to go.

Couldn't have a project without a woodworking aspect!!
Here's the vanity I made to replace the 20-something one.
Turned out pretty good, it's made from Teak.

Off to Cincinnati... can't wait!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Back to the workshop being a workshop

I have not posted too much in the way of new projects, but this is not because I have not been building stuff. I while ago I got some wood from my hometown, some from an uncle and others from a mill located near my Dad's homestead.

The wood from my uncle was a mix of Oak, Cherry, spalted beech and curly Maple - most of this wood was cut from the family land so has some very cool provenance. The other wood is some very spectacular birdseye maple from the same area. This wood is destined for a very special project,which will be revealed down the road.

I don't normally work with Oak as it brings with it some challenges in the working, and I find it quite pedestrian in appearance - that being said, I have the wood, I must answer its calling. To me the choice was easy, make some pieces for family from this wood. The first piece is for my Dad's Apartment and is a stand for his phone and a few things currently on a bookshelf that has seen better days - the footballs are a special touch.

Oak Cabinet for my Dad

The next piece just finished is a table for my oldest son's new apartment. He has recently moved and asked me to make him a small table for the kitchen; he wanted pub-style (imagine that!) table a little higher than normal at 36" high. This table is an original design and the top is 30" square, stained brown as he requested.

Brendan's table

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Master’s works

I saw a picture of Bill & Sarah Carter on my online acquaintance David Barron’s blog recently and thought it was time to look into picking up another Bill Carter plane. I have long been an admirer of Bill’s work and really appreciate the artistic approach he takes to his work, in particular the tiny planes he makes from rescued tenon saw backs. I sent a note off to them and was surprised and disappointed by the response – seems Bill is winding things down in his plane making business. That changed my decision on what I was buying, as I was thinking a mitre plane; but once I realized the door was closing I changed it up to another tiny mitre plane, which to my mind is quintessential Bill Carter. Here’s a couple of shots of my new plane, and a shot of the old one I bought last year.

If you are a fan of Bill’s work better move quickly, not sure how many more planes Bill will decide to make.

My first Bill Carter Plane Purchase

Friday, 31 August 2012

Hammer Time

I recently received a nice plane hammer with a new infill plane I had made for myself. I thought I could make a few of these for give-aways and keep some for myself.

First batch of plane hammers: top to bottom Flame Maple,
Walnut burl, Curly Ash, Brazilian Rosewood, Ash & Cherry
I asked a machinist buddy of mine to make me some brass heads I could turn some handles for, these were the result. The heads are 4" total length including the wooden end and the handles are about 10" long.

A good buddy gave me some nice little pieces of desert iron wood which I turned and threaded onto the end of the head.

I thought these turned out pretty cool.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Rocker Gallery Published

I have been asked by a few folks to post some higher resolution shots of the rocker. Now that it has darkened up a bit,its time. Enjoy...

Back Leg Joint Detail

Front Leg Detail

Back View - showing spaces at back of back braces for movement.

Front View

Three-Quarter view

Arm Detail

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Rocker Finished!

Here's a quick phone shot of the rocker completed. With a couple more coats of Deft, it will be ready for some posed shots. Until then, enjoy...

One coat of finish and ready for some ageing to darken up the cherry.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Rocker Build Update

A lot of progress has been made since last week. The rocker has a back and the rockers are shaped, spent quite a bit of time tonight rough shaping the arms, have a look at the pictures for the latest.

The arm screwed into the back leg and glued to the transition block, lots of grinding remains to make this look like it should.  The top of the arm has been coved on the tablesaw.

This and the next shot are the first test fit of the rockers with the transition stacks glued on. Those stacks of lams nder each leg will be shaped to blend into the leg in the classic Maloof organic style.

Front view showing rocker angles and cove on top of arms.

Another example of where luthier tools have purpose in other areas of woodworking. This is my teflon bushing on my laminate router - this is normally used for routing binding on instrument bodies. In this application it raises the bit high enough to rout the back brace safely around the severe curve, which would not be possible in a normal table-mounted router.

Another test fit, the rocker transitions are now shaped and the rocker has been rounded on the router, once the back is attached  these will be screwed on and the joints smoothed so they disappear. You can also see the back braces have been fitted in to the seat. While sounding like a trivial thing, getting the back brace bottom tenons to the exact width was a tedious job requiring them to be dimensioned to +or- .001" - too small and they are firewood! Fortunately no real drama here.
The headrest has been screwed on for shaping, no glue yet, but with the back braces in the bottom holes you begin to get the overall look. The tops of the arms have been shaped a bit - time for a Heather fitting. Back Braces will be trimmed and fitted tomorrow and then after a bit more shaping the headrest will be glued on. All that's left is attaching the rockers and final shaping.

Once the final steps are complete, final shaping and sanding will likely take a couple of days, this will need to be sanded to 1000 grit all over in order to ave the necessary smoothness for an organic piece such a this.