Saturday, August 28, 2010

For The Woodworker Who Has Everything

I asked for and got two things for my birthday: a new wallet (mine was held together with a rubber band) and pocket tweezers.

There isn't a single thing I need, tool-wise, and it's not possible for me to care less about fashion, so my bday wish list is always on the meager side.

But I'm happy as a woodworker with a pile of pink ivory and pearwood.

I am not endorsing this product, but it is pretty cool. It's very sharp with one curved side so you don't stab yourself as you remove a splinter. It also folds closed for safety.

And if you're a lady woodworker, it's great for plucking eyebrows. Works a heck of a lot better than the chainsaw I had been using.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Country Workshops with Jögge Sundqvist

I made it down to Country Workshops for one day only before stomach problems chased me back home, but it was well worth the drive.

Jögge Sundqvist is an excellent instructor and extremely likable person. I learned a ton of things from him in a short period of time, such as: the correct way to use an axe and adze, and the details that must be considered in bowl design.

The finished thickness of the walls and floor of the bowl is about 5/16". The ends, however, need to be three times as thick to account for the endgrain. Bowls are canted on the ends so the endgrain fibers are increased in length. This prevents liquid from leaching out of the ends and makes it less likely to crack.

Wooden bowls were used for all manner of things including dough, meat, and milk. In Norway and Sweden, "ale geese" bowls were made to hold beer.

During class, logs were split (taking care to avoid the pith), bark was removed, insides were hollowed, and outsides were carved to shape.

There are several ways to dry a bowl at this point. If it's small enough, you can use a microwave. Larger bowls can be stored in paper bags with air holes (which may result in spalting, so be careful) or wrapped in cloth and stowed in the basement or other cool place. You can even bury it in a pile of shavings for a few weeks.

If you carve green wood, as we did, you'll have to wait until the bowl is dry to achieve a finished, smooth surface.

I missed the days spent on spoon carving and proper knife holds, unfortunately, but I have Jögge's video, Carving Swedish Woodenware, for reference.

There are still spaces available in Jögge's next class, which is September 6-11. The video below will give you some idea of the layout and class structure.

The owners, Drew and Louise Langsner, couldn't be more gracious. They are sweet, gentle people and Louise is a heck of a cook.

When you take a class at Country Workshops, you become part of the family. The informal, friendly atmosphere and rustic, remote setting can provide the perfect getaway from a hectic life.

The spoons above were carved by Jögge Sundqvist. The bowl was carved by Drew Langsner.

You can view the video in a larger format here.

Designs for the bowl dogs we used at Country Workshops can be found in their free online newsletter.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

All Packed Up and Nowhere to Go

I should be on the road to Country Workshops as I write, but something is preventing it.

A stomach ulcer.

I've never had one before, so while I've battled increasingly worse burning nausea for the past five weeks and cut virtually every food item out of my diet (thinking some food product was the cause) except soda crackers and antacid pills (hey, I'm losing all kinds of weight), being doubled over in pain to the point of tears last night finally prompted me to call the doctor-on-call.

Ulcer. Great.

Wish me luck that I can get in to see him tomorrow so that maybe I can make it for the second half of the class.

I'm disappointed, to say the least.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Packing And Practicality

A friend once told me, "Women always have aspirin in their purses."

By that, he didn't mean that we suffer from headaches all the time, but that women tend to be prepared for "just in case" scenarios.

Which is why we pack so much for trips.

I'm getting ready for my week-long class at Country Workshops and have made an ongoing list of things to take along. Items include clothes for temperatures ranging from 50º to 90º and from sunny to rainy (we'll be in the mountains), Ibuprofen (we'll be swinging axes for a week), band aids and flexible adhesive wrap (for nicked fingers), camera and camcorder, way more batteries than I'll ever need, a notebook, and three pens (in case one is lost and one runs out of ink) get the picture.

I'm also packing lots of tools, many of which needed to be sharpened, which is what I did yesterday. While laying out my tools, I realized that two did not have protective covers for transport. So I spent some of yesterday making very quick, down-and-dirty blade guards for my Mora knife and crosscut saw.

For the knife, I made a wooden sheath. For the saw, I sawed a kerf in a piece of wood, dropped the blade into it, and attached it with twine.

While sharpening my axes and adze, I found that my little saw bench is a helpful accessory. To check my progress, I turned the axe around, moved to the side (so the blade wasn't in line with my face) and wedged the handle between the split in the top and bench's leg so I could examine the cutting edge more closely and touch it up with stones.

When the handle slipped, I grabbed the nearest chisel and mallet and started vigorously and roughly chopping out a ledge in the leg on which the handle could be wedged more securely.

My partner walked through my shop at that moment, observed what I was doing, and asked with mild alarm, "Are you allowed to do that?"

"It's my bench." I answered.

"But, do people do that?" She asked with increasing concern.

"The bench is just a tool." I shrugged.

She walked away. I hadn't convinced her that I wouldn't be banished from the woodworking community for having damaged my bench.

I have no problem with altering tools to meet my needs. If it makes a tool fit more comfortably in my hand or work more efficiently, I'll reshape, regrind, or recreate it. The only tools I wouldn't touch are in the collectors' category, but I don't own any.

For the class, we were asked to bring branches for the spoons we'll carve. I discovered that the split in the top of the saw bench works great at supporting a branch—much like a V-block—when sawing to length.

The bench works so well at so many tasks, in fact, I'm thinking about packing it and taking it with me to class.

Just in case.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sawbuck Table: Finished!

Just a mere two years and three months after starting the reproduction Pensylvania German sawbuck table project, I can finally call it complete.

The finish consists of six coats of blonde shellac and a coat of dark brown paste wax on all pieces except for the top, which is eight coats of blonde shellac and a coat of Circa 1850 Antique Paste Varnish.

The overall dimensions are 28" tall x 29" wide x 25" deep. I made mine a little more stout than the original, as you can see in the comparison photo.

Here are all the blog posts that relate to the project:
Sawbuck Table Part 1
Shaping the Legs
Handcut Lap Joint
Mortise & Tenon
Lamb's Tongue
Simple Carved Design
Tusk Tenon
Dovetail Plane
Sliding Dovetails
Back to the Sawbuck
Spindle Turning
Half Blind Dovetails
Creating a Cove
Drawer Front
Dare to Move Your Light
Beveled Drawer Bottoms
Handcut Dovetails Video
Stopped Dadoes and Drawer Runners
Fox Wedged Tenon

And here's how it goes together:

You can watch the video in larger, high def, format on my Vimeo channel.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Swedish Country Furniture

Some things are just plain hard to find.

Like an effective weight loss program that includes all-you-can-eat bowls of ice cream. An Elvis impersonator who looks like the young Elvis. A fat, 3-legged, vision-impaired ground hog that can't outrun my lazy dogs.

And books on Swedish country furniture.

I've been looking for images that reflect the characteristics of old world folk and peasant furniture found in Sweden.

Thanks to an online friend, Byron Wiley, who belongs to a Scandinavian dance band in Lawrence, Kansas, these images have found me.

Byron recently returned from a month-long trip to Sweden, where he snapped a number of photos of just the types of pieces I've been looking for.

All of the photos in this post and all of the accompanying information have been supplied by Byron, to whom I am enormously indebted.

To read more about the places referred to in the photo pages, visit the websites for the Älvros Farmstead and the Nordiska Museet.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Studley Tool Chest

A peak inside this magnificent tool cabinet, thanks to a video made by Norm Abram (and the person on the Old Tools Forum who posted the link).

Norm shows off the interior here.

Thank you to Dean, who posted this link in the comments section, where you can read more about the tool chest.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Five Spots Left For WIA

If you've been vascillating about whether or not to attend the Woodworking In America Conference this October in Cincinnati, you might want to make your final decision sooner rather than later.

There are only five spaces left for the conference and you have until midnight tonight to save $40 on the early bird special.