Saturday, September 29, 2012

Honing Gouges Video

As I'm working on the carving for my gothic stool, I decided to show you the technique I use to keep my gouges sharp. This is not the only way to hone your tools, it's just the one that I use.

I posted a short write up about this two years ago, but sometimes it's easier to explain in video format.

To view this in HD, click here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fort Hunter Day

Dan showed how to make a framed
panel by hand.
Two friends and I set up shop at Fort Hunter Day this past Sunday. We had a steady stream of interested folks stop by our tents throughout the day.

I demonstrated chip carving and dovetailing and learned a few things from the experience.

One woman who was a quilter mentioned that a particular knife cut I was making was called "pumpkin seed" in quilting. It's not surprising to hear that there's a crossover between crafts. In fact, many of the same patterns found in chip carving are also found in fraktur paintings.
Alan did some carving and
sharpened handsaws.

Another woman with an eastern European accent asked where I had seen the design that I had carved on my gothic stool. I told her it was from a book, and she said that she recognized the pattern. "Is traditional Transylvanian rosette," she said.  How cool is that??

One guy stopped by and asked me (tongue-in-cheek), "Where's your husband? He does nice work!" From that I learned to not set up my booth next to my friend (Dan) who had no doubt put him up to it.

My Transylvanian Gothic Stool.
We borrowed the spill plane that I  had made for the York Agricultural & Industrial Museum and shaved spills for the kids. After we explained what they were used for (the original matchstick), we told them that they were also Harry Potter wands. It was a big hit.

I had two boxes sitting near one another in my booth. One was a walnut and spalted maple sliding lid box with fine, thin dovetails. The other was a chip carved pine box with chunky, awkwardly large dovetails.

Without exception, every visitor who noticed the boxes reached for the chip carved box. Not one person commented on the walnut box. I think that most people look for furniture with dovetailed drawers because they've been told they're a sign of a well-made piece, but perhaps only another woodworker actually admires dovetails.

It seems to me that most non-woodworkers will notice ornamentation or interesting figure or a nice finish, but not joinery.  It makes sense.  We might not know what makes a good quality quilt, but we would certainly notice the fabric and colors.

We set up our booths at 7:15 that morning and broke down our tents by 6:30 p.m.  We were completely exhausted. The woman in charge of our area asked if we would consider doing it again next year and I said we'd think about it.

Yesterday, a friend sent me photos that he had taken that day. When I saw the last one, I forgot all about how tired I had been and decided right then I'd do it again. How could I say "no" to those faces?

The three photos from Fort Hunter were taken by Robert Newmyer. Thanks, Bob!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On The Road Again

John Harris/Simon Cameron Mansion
Greta is going on the road for the third time since she was completed in April.

Last week, I demonstrated chip carving at the John Harris/Simon Cameron Mansion. This Sunday, I'll dovetail candle boxes at Fort Hunter Day along with two friends—one of whom will make Shaker oval boxes, and the other will build frame and panel doors with hand tools.

Greta's still plenty gappy.
You might wonder how Greta's holding up and breaking down with the change in humidity. Surprisingly, she's hardly moved at all. That gap between the two top boards to allow for wood movement has only shrunk about 1/32".  The only other difference is that the top boards have gotten a wee bit thicker—about 1/64".

Other than that, she still knocks down and goes together just fine.

The benchtop is a tad thicker.
We'll be outside this weekend in the grass, so I thought of a way to ensure that Greta's feet won't wick up any moisture from the ground: Duct tape.

I'll line the bottoms of her legs with blue painter's tape (which isn't as sticky), and then put duct tape overtop of it. Should make for a good moisture barrier.

And, I learned a couple things from last week's demo that I'll keep in mind for this Sunday:
1) You can never have too many packing blankets.
Packing for Fort Hunter.
2) I talk too much.

The latter of the two was revealed to me by my partner who said that I should cut more, talk less.

Not a problem. I'm bringing duct tape, remember?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gothic Stool: Part III

Just like everything else in woodworking, shaping your piece can be done with a number of different tools.

Generally, I rough-cut pieces on a bandsaw and then finalize the shape with chisels, gouges, spokeshaves, rasps, files, sandpaper wrapped around dowels, and a lot of time.

I haven't found a quick way to shape pieces.  An oscillating spindle sander can come in handy, but you wouldn't be able to reach tight corners and you'd still need to do final sanding. 

However, just like sanding, you can speed up the process by starting with your most aggressive tools—coarse rasps and files, deep cuts with chisels and gouges—to remove the bulk of the waste. 

Working under a raking light reveals parts that need more attention, and using a square to check that your edges are perpendicular to the faces ensures that both sides of your piece will be identical.

After I shaped the legs, I trimmed the tenons that pass through the seat. At this point you have a workable stool.

Ah, but what good is a stool without a little carving? 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gothic Stool: Part II

After you fit the legs on the gothic stool, it's time to move onto the stretcher and tusk tenons.

I left the stretcher longer than necessary and will trim its tenons to length once the stool is completely built.

The shoulders of the tenons on the stretchers will be angled, just like the legs (in this case—7º), so you'll need to keep that in mind as you cut them.

Once the tenons are fitted to the mortises in the legs, you need to cut the mortises for the wedges that will go through the ends of the stretcher and will pin the entire stool together. This creates the tusk tenon joint.

Because the wedge goes through the stretcher sideways, the mortise will be wider on one side of the stretcher than the other.

I used a 5º slope for the mortise—enough of an angle that the wedge won't slide all the way through, but not so much that it wants to pop loose.

Next up: shaping the legs.