Sunday, June 28, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
To view larger and in high definition, click here.
This is not the most expeditious way to cut dovetails and it's just one of several ways to make them. The video has been sped up; it actually takes me about 20 minutes to do what the video shows in 6 minutes 11 seconds.
You can quicken the process by not using a guide block, and you might be faster at chopping out all the waste with a chisel rather than removing the majority with a fret saw. A marking knife is great for transferring layout lines, but I use a pencil that's been bevel-edged on a sheet of sandpaper.
In my opinion, it's faster to cut tails first because you can saw both tail boards at the same time, plus transferring layout lines to the pin board is easier. But if you plan to make skinny, English-style pins, I suggest cutting pins first. It's nearly impossible to transfer the lines of thin dovetails if you cut tails first.
Always saw with the "show" side facing you. In the video, they are marked "Pins" and "Tails".
If you are careful with laying out, transferring, and cutting to your lines, and sawing perfectly straight, your pieces will go together on the first try.
For a write-up of one way to handcut half-blind dovetails, click here. It explains the use of a wide plane blade to assist in lining up the guide block, and lists the tools I use.
Music: Derek and the Dominoes (Eric Clapton) "Bell Bottom Blues" and the instrumental version performed by Vitamin String Quartet.
I used a 1:8 ratio dovetail marker because I had planned to use cherry. When I used pine instead, I forgot to use my 1:6 ratio marker. 1:6 works best with softer woods.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Chuck is an expert in 17th, 18th, and early 19th c. furniture. Recently, he gave a presentation to our woodworking club about secret compartments and locking mechanisms that were sometimes found in period furniture, such as spice cabinets, slant front desks, lap desks, and blanket chests.
Features like this gave cabinetmakers a chance to show off their skill and ingenuity. And who doesn't like a mystery? Trying to find all the hidden drawers and figure out how to open them was great fun for our ancestors. And by the response from the club, it's still intriguing to modern woodworkers.
Chuck showed us some of his pieces, which included handcut dovetails and hand carved ornamentation. The largest piece, a lovely, tall painted hutch, unfortunately suffered a broken pane as it was carried into the meeting place by club members. I was not the cause of this, even though—as an easy target who is forever without a comeback—I was pegged with the mishap.
Chuck also brought with him an explodable chest to illustrate locking mechanisms and hidden compartments.
One way to lock a drawer is to install a Quaker Lock (also called Spring Lock). Oak, maple, or some other springy wood "key" is slid into a shallow, sloped, bevel-edged dado on the underside of a drawer. A square hole is cut into the drawer support (shelf), in alignment with the key. By reaching underneath the drawer support and pushing a finger through the square hole, the key is depressed, and the drawer can be opened. When the key is not depressed, it pushes against the front wall of the square hole, so the drawer is locked in place.
The bottom shelf of Chuck's demo piece tips upward when you push down on the back edge, and reveals a shallow compartment. When this shelf is removed, you can see a small, sliding dovetail key that slips into a matching mortise inside the cabinet's back. By sliding the key toward you, it releases the back, which slides up, and provides access to hidden spaces behind the drawers.
For 17th, 18th, and early 19th c. cabinetmakers, there were no standards for making these concealed compartments and locks; they just used their imagination. Sometimes, heavy crown moulding camouflaged a shallow drawer behind the ornate profile.
Planning ahead is paramount to successfully including hidden drawers and locks to your furniture. Trying to retrofit them after your piece is built is nearly impossible. Don't do what I did.
Today, we have bullet catches, rare earth magnets, metal springs, and other items to help us include secret spaces in our furniture.
We can also follow on the heels of our ancestors and come up with our own clever ways to add a bit of mystery to our projects.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
When: Saturday, July 11, 2009.
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Where: Black and Decker University, 8701 Mylander Lane, Towson, MD 21286
Cost: No charge. Pizza will be provided by Black & Decker.
10:00 a.m. – 12 noon: Delta – Porter Cable – DeWalt Product Development team will give a briefing on new tools they have under design and development, and will ask for our feedback to help them improve their ideas.
12 noon – 1:00 p.m.: Lunch
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.: David Savage, a British furniture designer and maker of international stature, will be the featured speaker. Not only is David highly successful in his own business, but he has a multi-decade history of teaching other woodworkers to be successful in their own businesses. David will talk about The British and Irish Studio Furniture Movement. He will focus on how British and Irish furniture makers have developed a way to stay connected with one another. For more about David Savage: www.finefurnituremaker.com
2:30 – 3:00 p.m.: Talk on Setting up and tuning a bandsaw by B&D University
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.: Round Table on “How to make your woodworking business successful”
Raffle/Drawing for a free school seat from Jeff Headley and Steve Hamilton
Contact: Mel Montemerlo at firstname.lastname@example.org; Stu Crick at email@example.com; or Alan Garner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
In the chip carving class I took with Wayne Barton, the knives we bought from him required some sharpening before use. They came with a blade shaped like the Washington Monument, and it was our job to flatten the sides on ceramic stones. (See illustration at left).
Over an hour later, I tried carving with my knife, which tore the wood instead of producing a crisp cut.
It sure looked sharp to my eye. So I handed it to Wayne, who reached in his pocket for a little monocle-type magnifier. He inspected it and, without a word, slid the blade in rapid-fire motion back and forth on my stone. He looked again through the magnifier and handed the knife back to me.
It cut like butter.
After that, I asked Dad if he still had his pocket magnifier. And while he no longer had the cool one in the little leather case I played with as a kid, he was happy to give me another, which has a permanant place in my shop apron.
The first blade close-up is my chip carving knife. You can see how clean the edge is. And although the sides could be flattened a bit more, it cuts great.
In contrast is my pocket knife (second close-up), which I thought was sharp until I looked through the magnifier. (Did I mention I need bifocals?)
The last two images are the torch lillies that are blooming in my backyard. Unfortunately, there was not an ant in sight when I took the photos.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
My shop has never been cleaner since I'm having an open house on Saturday, and I'm taking advantage by documenting it on film.
It looks a little disorganized since so many cabinets either need to be built or need to be finished. My assembly table still needs a work surface (it's not meant to have unattached strips of 2x4s as a top) in addition to doors. But hey, it's my little slice of heaven.
I'll walk you through the land of unfinished projects and show you the world's cheapest store-bought workbench ($139 at B.J.'s Wholesale Club).
And if you watch the entire video, you'll get to see a scruffy little dog wearing wellies.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Plus the resort* has both indoor and outdoor pools. And I hear that Marc Spagnuolo and Matt Vanderlist wear speedos.**
The Saturday dinner, the Marketplace, and the in-between seminar times are excellent opportunities to meet other woodworkers, make friends, and speak directly with presenters and exhibitors. If it's anything like last year's conference, it will be the best, albeit exhausting (but I'm a wimp), 3 days you've had in a long time.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Ever since I read A. J. Hamler's article on Joe Cress in Woodwork Magazine (sadly, a discontinued publication), I've been hunting for books with decent images of campaign furniture and have found nothing, until now.
The book is geared toward amateur to moderately experienced woodworkers with easy projects, like a 5-board bench and hard tack crate, that are well within a beginner's reach. At least two projects are a bit trickier: an officer's folding camp chair and a pine field desk with simple joinery.
He explains how you can build these pieces authentically—and what it means to be "period-correct"—and provides other options if you are more of a Normite than a follower of St. Roy.
In addition to the projects, A. J. also explains the differences between hardcore and mainstream reenactors and those called "Farbs"— people in period attire who might be sporting a wristwatch and sunglasses while talking on a cell phone. He also includes cool photos of reenactors and 19th c. soldiers.
I've read a few excerpts and it's a great book. Well written • engaging • Civil War woodworking projects. What more could you ask for?
*All images are from A. J. Hamler's "Civil War Woodworking."