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, 29 July 2013

Maloof-inspired Dining Set Begins!

Maloof Low-Back Dining Chair
One of the projects next on the list for me is to build a pair of low-back dining chairs and a small (40" diameter) table for our breakfast area. With no kids around now, we find ourselves eating at a small table I made a while ago rather than the dining room set. The two side chairs from my office are just not the right chairs to eat on.
Maloof small table (mine will be round)

I have known for a while these would be a Maloof style; my rocking chair carving/building experience has shown me this is within my abilities.

I knew I would need some help on the design for this and have been looking for inspiration for a while. Last fall at WIA I took a close look at Charles Brock's chair in the flesh and while close to what I was after, I did not like the arm treatment. Scott Morrison's version was closer to what I was after, so I bought both sets of templates and decided to merge them into my own version.

Konrad Sauer's elegant design
I knew I wanted a flattish arm style similar to Konrad Sauer's (at right) and Scott's plans were the closest to this, so I used his templates and Charles' techniques - neither of these plans are detailed enough to build from unless you have some experience in this style of building - so be warned. The Hal Taylor plans and video are unprecedented in detail  - perhaps too far the other way but you will not be wanting for more information in Hal's videos - everything you need to know to build your first Maloof-style piece is there - I cannot recommend this approach strongly enough if you are not going to attend a class.

I also bought Scott Morrison's templates and video for the table. Again, Scott's video and templates are very short on details and dimensions forcing one to do a lot of thinking around the build - I would have expected a lot more. The video is sexy with its CGI graphics and animation, but you cannot build your first table from this template and video without lots of help.

On with the build!

With the design work mostly done...

The flitch of 8/4 Walnut I made Courtney's bench from was bought primarily for this purpose. So time to get to work! Below are a few picture of work to date on the build.

Gluing up a pair of seat blanks, there were a few small checks, I filled them with stained epoxy to start.
Later I will cut the worst of it out and make sure it will be carved away in the final seat to ensure I have
a stable seat.

Gluing up the top in stages to avoid a catastrophic mistake.
Cleaning up the seat blank to make it lie flat for joinery - it  is 1-3/4" thick at this point and the thickest part
will likely end up just north of 1-5/8".

All the joinery marked out on the seat blanks. The happy faces are the lines I will drill on the set a depth reference for my carving. The legs joints are marked out as well.

All the legs rough cut and labeled with the joinery routed on the seats ready for the joinery on the legs to be cut.

Organization is key!
Back to the shop to cut some leg joints.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Shaker bench gets my own twist

Activity Returns at Rich's Woodcraft

Now that I am back in the shop in earnest, there are several projects that were in progress that I am working on except this is one that was an add-on. This project was completed in early in July but had to wait to be posted as this was a gift for a wedding, and the gift was just delivered. My wife's niece was getting married and we discussed making something for her, we thought about many things, but settled on a featured piece of furniture that would stand on its own without having to coordinate with other pieces such as a bedroom or living room.

Inspired by Contemporary masters

We absolutely love the shaker style bench I made almost 20 years ago from a Woodsmith (Issue #88) magazine plan and used this for inspiration for the design. However, I had 20 years more shop experience under my belt and this one would be my own design. I drew inspiration from masters in this area such as Thomas Moser and Timothy Clark; both contemporary builders for whom I have a great deal of respect. Both of these guys are very successful making nice stuff for a discerning clientèle.

This shaker bench, built in 1995, stands sentry at the entrance to our home.
Providing a drop spot for nearly 20 years of groceries, schoolbooks and tired bodies.

Many of the features I designed into my dining room chairs could be used here and this made the design and subsequent build very straight-forward. I wanted the legs to be wedged through tenons and reinforced with the mortised bracket I used for the dining chairs. This allowed me to use my bending forms for the brackets as well as the mortising jig I made to inset the brackets into the legs.

I've Got Wood!

I recently purchased a complete flitch of 8/4 Walnut which included some boards almost 20" wide and this compelled me to make this bench from Walnut, rather than the traditional Cherry; the leg brackets would be Walnut as well and the legs and spindles would be the creamiest coloured Maple for maximum contrast.

Test fitting of tenons after drilling, note that seat carving
is not complete yet.
The through holes in the seat were drilled from the bottom side before the seat was carved just to make it easier to position on the drill press using my positioning forms and if there is any tear-out, it would be carved away later. This picture show the test fitting being done.

The legs here have been rough turned to 1.5" diameter and the tenon has been shaped using my Lee Valley 1" Tenoning bit on the lathe.

The holes have also been drilled at 10 degrees for the 17 back spindles.

Legs from dining chairs showing leg bracket mortised into leg.
This structure provides plenty of support for many years of sitting.
The plugs have yet to be trimmed flush.

The legs were final shaped with only a bit of taper down to 1.25" at the bottom, keeping it more or less flat where the mortise goes into the leg for the bracket. This is beefier than the dining chairs, since there is only four legs for 50" of bench.

The brackets for the bench legs made from Walnut and were screwed and plugged into the leg mortise - similar to the chair legs at left.

The bracket is then screwed, glued and plugged to the underside of the seat, providing that smooth down under look - like a Ken doll...

Underside view showing brackets and one coat of Deft to minimize
dirt marks on the legs. This is all done before the top is carved to final shape.
About that hole - stay tuned...
The major challenge with this piece was carving the seat and having it not suck... I had done lots of carving for chairs and rocking chairs, but the challenge here was having the carving be flat over roughly four feet of distance. I carved the main depression for the bum-area the normal way with the Kutzall on the angle grinder and smoothed the few humps I had with a scraper. The front half was rough carved with the sanding wheel on the grinder and then I used the 4-foot level to gauge the flatness of the horizontal aspect and levelled it out. Then I moved to the 80 grit disc on the Festool RO 125 to do the final smoothing - all outside to deal with the copious amounts of dust generated.

The finished seat with legs attached and single coat of Deft to seal the seat to help with any
glue squeeze-out from spindle gluing.

Underside of bench showing detail of bracket attached to bottom and mortised into leg.
For me production line work is always a chore, I don't like doing something more than a few times; turning the 17 spindles was a challenge. I use a multi-step process to ensure homogeneity and to get the tenon sized exact. I start with 3/4" square blank and knock the corners off on the tablesaw. Then using the LV Tenon cutter I cut a 5/8" diameter tenon on each end, using the Oneway chuck to hold the opposing end. Since there is quite a bit of setup involved I made 20 spindles to deal with any blow-ups, and at this point they are 1" over-length. While I am tenoning, I choose which end will be the crest rail end and put a 3/8" tenon with my LV tenoning bit on this end. This is where tenoning both ends earlier helps, the 5/8" round end is much easier to centre on the tenoning bit, it is also less material to remove for this smallish bit, reducing the likelihood of a drama.

The small end is then chucked into the Oneway and the final shape turned with a gradual taper from 3/8" up to the 5/8" section, being careful to preserve the dimensions of the tenons, to ensure a snug fit. In fact the the tenon cutter is set a little bigger than the Forstner hole size so I can sand each one to a super snug fit when assembling. The extra inch is cut off (1/2" from each end) to remove the chew marks from the Oneway and the spindles are complete - BTW, I had one left over, so I needed 2 of my spares - good move!

And the final product....

Side View of finished bench

And from the front.

And about that hole...

Birdseye Maple insert engraved with important information!!
Hopefully this bench will outlast all of us and leave an impression for generations to come.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Small turning to fill important request

The original turning,
 about 8" x 6+" round.
I have been very busy in the shop lately now that I can focus my non-work time on woodworking tasks. A number of tasks have been long outstanding and I am starting to get caught up. I have been doing some turning for an important project which I can't discuss right now; and was asked by my oldest son to make him a counter-top holder for his kitchen utensils. This would help to free up some drawer space in his apartment. Of course Dad is going to oblige these rare requests. I had made one for us a few years ago so it would be modeled after that.

This unassuming pile of off-cuts looks like a turning to me!

The first question was wood choice and I love segmented turning as a way to use up small pieces of wood. In this case the cherry I had saved from the dining room chair projects seemed to be ideal. There were lots of oddball pieces that would create a nice variety for my segments.

The pieces all cut to 2.75" long and 22.5 degrees
on each end. This part takes lots of time.

I milled the pieces to 1.25" wide on the bandsaw and cut as many pieces as I could get from the pieces. Let me say not much of this wood went to the burn box - this is a very efficient way to use this material.

All the individual pieces were marked and cut on the bandsaw and the angled edges sanded smooth on the disk sander; cutting on the bandsaw is much safer than the tablesaw for these short pieces. Many guys labour over the angles being exact, my approach is to make them close, glue up half-circles (see photo) and sand the two halves so they join together, this make-up joint give perfect results every time. All the gluing is done freehand by rubbing the pieces together for a few seconds and holding - have never had a failure yet. The two halves get a quik-grip to hold them together, but otherwise no clamping.

A selection of round rings and the base ready for building.
The edges of the rings are rounded on disk sander to avoid tear-out
The turning is started with one solid piece for the base and each ring gets one side sanded flat on the wide-belt sander and glued to the base right on the lathe, this section is turned and finish-sanded on the inside, the face made flat, the next piece sanded flat, glued on, turned and face-flattened for the next piece (x3). I find turning and sanding as it goes makes it much easier to control the piece as the spinning mass is reduced as you go.


The finished project. I added a ring of Cherry/Ash for visual interest.