Friday, February 18, 2011

Breaking the rules, but not the edges

In finishing up the walnut rocker this week, I figured it might be worth sharing some of the techniques that I use to get fluid shapes and crisp edges. Walnut has such a clarity in grain and texture, that it calls for extra attention when treating the surfaces. While many of the parts are shaved with a spokeshave to their final state, such as the legs, others, where I want to stress the shape and wood grain are scraped and sanded.

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to shaving, scraping and sanding. You don't follow sandpaper with an edge tool. The sandpaper leaves grit embedded in the surface that can dull or cause minute chipping of the blade, and generally, I adhere to this principle. But in this case, I bend or even break the rules to get the desired result.

After my initial scraping, it sand the carved area with 220 grit sandpaper and a felt block. I try to be very thorough in producing and even scratch pattern. After I've done this though, invariably, I notice the unevenness that I missed in the scraping. So I pull out the scraper again and lightly scrape the surface, and the low spots remain dull while the highs get cut. It's always surprising how much this helps the overall shape become fluid.

I figure that the scraper is an intermediate tool anyway, and easy to sharpen, so I don't mind following the sandpaper. Then I sand again through to 320 grit and feel the surface with my hand flat on the seat, quickly running it in all directions to feel for more subtle discrepancies.

I don't carve a gutter in seats that are left natural, preferring to leave a simple, clean transition from the carved area to the flat. This can be tough to  do, and makes me realize that the gutter isn't just decorative, but serves as a sort of trim, to help cover the sins of less than perfect transitions!

To get the sharp edge that I want, requires first that the carved shape be even and fluid. I do this as normal, with a travisher, scraper and then sandpaper. But sanding a perfect edge into the transition can be tough because it's actually quite an obtuse angle.

But I still try my best. Now here is where I really break the rules. I reach for my handplane to surface the flat. Before I do this, I brush the surface and use a microfiber cloth to remove as much of the embedded grit as I can. Then I plane down a few shavings and the crisp edge appears.

As I said, this only works if the carved shape and surface is even and fluid. But it solves the transition issue in a wood that shows every detail.

Here is the seat after the whole deck has been planed.

Here is the latest spoon available for purchase! So please email me if you want your name put in the hat.

This is apple wood and has some striking figuring in the bowl. It's $45 plus $5 shipping.

It is a good shape for all around kitchen use. Good luck!


jack said...

Great looking seat! It really defines the term that beauty is in the details! Love your work.
Paul Testoni

Peter Galbert said...

Thanks Paul,
working with walnut is like having cake for breakfast!

John said...

The seat looks great. Amazing to see how sharp those edges got. Very well done.. I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Peter Galbert said...

Thanks John, I balanced the rockers today and hope to get it oiled up in a day or so

Caleb James said...

I really appreciate the rule of thumb. I now know why my scrapers get dull. I happened to be doing this exact thing today in the shop. Well, at least I will know why they get dull if I still do it. Thanks for the tip!