Friday, June 24, 2011

More Curtis

In case you haven't found it on yet, here are some more installments of Curtis building his signature comb back. So get a cup of coffee, turn your screen so your boss can't see it, and enjoy your morning!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shedding Light

Usually methods of work can be attributed to the demands of the process, the tools at hand, or the pleasure of the user.
My favorite moments in the shop are when I know that there is an elegant method for the task at hand and I get to think it over. I usually look around the shop at my masking tape, string, straight edges, mirrors and rubberbands. There are few issues that I've run into that these vital tools can't tackle.
Recently, Greg Pennington introduced me to lasers, and while they might not find their way into my work in the same way, they have opened some doors that I've been knockin' on for some time now.

So often in "classic" chairmaking, the curved arm rails or crests are connected to the seat by straight spindles. This is no problem, as all sorts of straight surrogates can be used to site for drilling. But when using curves spindles, there is an offset, in that the holes in the seat don't point directly at the holes in the crest.

Here is how I've solved the problem. In the past, I would have set this up and used a protractor to read the angle that splits the two spindles to get the rake. Then I would have set up a mirror to drill at that same angle. The trouble with this method is that usually, by this time in my process, I have already carved the seat, and the mirrors become unwieldy.

Here come the lasers, with their lovely ability to create lines in space. As you can see, I use the same simple set up and split the difference with the laser for the rake, and for the splay, I line up with the mortise in the seat straight to the hole in the rail for the splay.

Then I simply remove the spindles and drill, using the lasers to guide the bit.

I have done this many times with my previous means, but I've never seen such dead on and even results. After the first couple of mortises were drilled, I noted a spot on the back of the drill to register and recreate the offset, then I drilled the rest by eye.

The ability of the laser to "wrap" around surfaces has been making all sorts of complex marking and locating easier for me. It only makes sense that visually defining planes in space would be a helpful in chairmaking, where so much of what we do is  connect lines in space!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Curtis...21st Century, 21st Curtis

 My good friend Curtis Buchanan has finally taken the leap to using the computer! No, that doesn't mean that he's using it, but rather you can use it to see him.
Curtis, along with David Sawyer has influenced my attitude towards freely sharing information and a while back, Curtis called to say that he was undertaking a video project for display on I thought it was a great idea and would be much appreciated by the woodworking community.

Rather than scripting out and shooting an outline, this is more like spending time with Curtis, and if you've never done this, let me give you a piece of advice. Sit back, relax and let go. Curtis marches to his own drummer and as many would say, it's a good one.

Here are the first two installments.

 Here is the second video

Summer Rhythm

Every summer, I find myself more drawn to doing things away from the computer, so the blog suffers...but it's not for lack of interesting action, as a matter of fact, I've got a whole backlog of topics that I am trying to muster the self discipline to post!

Getting used to life in Massachusetts has been a rollercoaster, not just for me. The chickens had a large in barn coop, but I couldn't stand to see them indoors, so I built a new summer tractor for them. I have to move it every day or they completely obliterate the lawn.

In a past post, I spoke disparagingly of red oak, noting that I was probably experiencing a regional deficiency. Well, no such trouble here. I've found a great resource for logs (JB Sawmill in Hopkinton) and they have some lovely red oak. As you can see, it bent very nicely.

When I bent this, I thought to myself, "OK, I can live here".

Below are my first students in the new shop. Jerry and Steve. We had a fine time and the shop served us well. I'm surprised to say that I am as pleased with this shop as with the one that I built. It actually has one advantage, northern exposure. This means that I can turn out the lights and use a raking light easily, which makes surface flaws much easier to see.

Next year, they are bringing another family member into the mix.

Following up on my recent posts about felt, I keep finding new uses. Clamping the shaped backs of fan and combbacks has always presented a problem. The ear is thin and too weak for clamping, which leaves the next thickest part, which is the transition from the ear to the back. I used to have some carved clamp pads, but now I just use the thick felt.

You can see the impression made by the arris. I've found that popping the felt pads in the steamer for 10 minutes will swell them back to square and they are ready to use anew.

About the only thing missing from the shop, was my trusty companion, so I removed the old horse stall door and installed it as a half door on the main entrance to the shop.

Now Lil and Rocket can come and go from the house as they wish (Rocket of course stays in the house, on the bed)