Monday, February 27, 2012

I miss Dana


When considering moving, we measured the possibilities of new opportunities against the known assets that we enjoyed where we were. It was tough. One of the roughest assets to lose, was my photographer friend Dana Duke. 


Dana is a commercial photographer and artist and basically stays "on call" for all the artists and craftsfolk in the southern Catskills. He was always there to help shoot a chair on the way to a client was great!

 Now, what we get is a few hurried shots in my driveway on the way to loading them up. Not my best, but I have a nasty sinus infection and these chairs are late on delivery!

They turned out great and I am planning to make one for myself. It's a different idea than I've built before, in that, the client wanted "lounge" chairs, which most folks order as rockers, but he didn't want that. I very much liked the look of the long legs and elimination of the rockers. Rockers are a hard design element to work with as they are large and the shortening of the legs can look awkward if not addressed well.

I'm getting used to the different qualities of the walnut and can't wait to dig in again. First, I have to get healthy and buy those boots that I promised Sue for driving me all the way to Connecticut to deliver these chairs!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Favorite Day

The phrase, my favorite day, could be taken a few different ways. Some might think that it's a reference to the "best" day of my life, like one would think of the birth of a child, or a game winning catch etc...but I mean something else.

Since I started trying to work for myself many years ago, it's been a constant struggle, not just to pay bills, but to make sure that the business that I was nurturing, was making me as happy as I had intended. Sure, with being my own boss, there is always the privilege of deciding my priorities and how to spend my time, but as anyone who has tried knows, it can be a huge burden. Just because you know your craft, doesn't mean you can manage your self with ease.

In the past few years, I've become aware of all the components that go into making a great day at work, and home, so that my favorite day can be revisited over and over.

 The other day, I had an especially good one. It started in the shop, doing some finishing work on a couple of walnut chairs.
 When I took a break to feed my animals, I realized that my little goat Silky was in season. Sue and I have gone back and forth about the logistics and priority of whether to breed her this year, and with the opportunity presented, we both firmly came down on the side of Do IT! So this summer, we'll have kids, milk, cheese and yogurt.

When we returned from the farm where her suitor lived, my brother set up my sap boiler to make some syrup, while I got back to work in the shop.
I don't have to tell you how much I love syrup season. I just ordered a new larger pan and will be building a new rig when I return from a seminar in Rochester this weekend. This rig was built by my friend Ray Duffy.  It works great, but if I'm going to make syrup for all my friends in the neighborhood, I need more capacity.

One of the easiest components to "my favorite day" and most readily accessible, is right here. I love working in the shop, having an idea and sitting down at the end of the day and sharing it. It's the perfect end to my work day. With that in mind, I am working on ideas for expanding this part of my day.

As for sharing ideas, here is one that I haven't directly featured, probably because I use it so constantly that I don't even notice it. Those who have taken classes with me will recognize this.

I use this to measure the angle of the center spindle in relation to the seat once the crest or arm is in place, amongst other things. This critical measurement has everything to do with the comfort and consistency of my chairs. Most of these protractors have two fins that stick down below the flat bottom. I simply grind them off and level them to the bottom with some sand paper on plate glasss.

Then, I make a small notch at he point where all of the angles originate and tape a piece of kite string to the back.
 Here is the protractor in use. Just place it over the center hole and position the string on the crest where the center spindle will hit. Then read the angle.

Of course the angle is different for different chairs. Most of my straight, round spindle armchairs sit at 12 degrees, side chairs at 8 to 10 degrees and curved spindle chairs vary with the curve, and the intended use.

Today is a sunny day, the sap is flowing, I have work in the shop to do and I've already posted, looks like it's going to be a good one!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Murray Kidman

I was fortunate to have my friends Carl and Glen in Australia introduce me to Murray Kidman. He is a rare breed of Aussie who goes out into the bush with a chainsaw and a boatload of skill and comes back with some beautiful woods. He specializes in tone woods for guitar makers. Watching him work is pure pleasure. I've never seen a chainsaw handled so expertly.
 Here is a snake having a particularly tough day. He was in the log and managed to get cut into thirds. We never did find the head!

Check out this video of Murray at work.

I watched him rip a board less than 3/8" off the side of the log like it was cut on a resaw bandsaw.
Here is the final product at the Maton Guitar showroom in Victoria.

For another video of brilliant Aussie bushmen, check out this one that Robin Wood posted.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Seeing the Light pt.2

A while back, I posted about using a UV flashlight to observe hide glue squeeze out when cleaning up joints. The original post is here. I've taken the process a step further, by adding a tiny amount of UV dye to the glue. The results are amazing. 

Below is the joint in daylight, without the UV light.

 And here is the joint, in daylight, with the UV light on it. I think this is helpful in two ways, not only can it show the location of the residue, but it also highlights the effectiveness of my clean up process! This is especially important on woods that oxidize and change colors, as even hide glue will inhibit the color change where the glue remains.


It also serves to show how difficult it is to keep the glue only in the joints! I was showing off my new flashlight to Andy Jack, when I spotted this.

Looks fine until I turned on the flashlight!

The dye (one ounce is a lifetime supply) can be ordered here. I hated paying the shipping, but I love knowing where all the glue is. To use the dye, I dip the end of a bamboo skewer in the jar and mix my already flowing glue with it. It takes less than a drop to light up a whole pot of glue.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A little Cut and Paste

Here is a small improvement on yesterdays post about using an angle based straight scale to draw sightlines. I fooled around with it a bit and created this scale.

Hopefully you will be able to print it out and use some spray adhesive to glue it to a piece of posterboard. (to print it try saving the image to your desktop first!)
The nice thing about this scale is that it eliminates the step of having to draw a second line square to the base line. Simply put one side of the scale on the baseline so that the drilling location corresponds to the splay that you want and then make a mark up on the perpendicular scale next to the rake that you want and then connect the two marks. If need be, I can make another video.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sightlines Revisited

I recently had a "eureka" moment, or perhaps a "duh" moment working out some sightlines for the two walnut armchairs that I am making. ***please see the edit at the end of the post***

I've shot a short video explaining the details.

Hopefully the video clarifies the process enough, but if not, here is the brief synopsis. The sightline is based on a relationship between the amount of rake and splay that you want. If the rake and splay are equal, the sightline will always be 45 degrees. By using a straight edge with marks based on degrees from a single point, the incremental increase of distance is accounted for and we can use this scale for direct layout. If you are dying to know why this works, take a look at this drawing of the graphical process. (and perhaps visit this posting and it's second part for a refresher)

You'll notice that all of the views of the chair come together to make a small triangle. Well, by using the special rule based on degrees, we skip all the steps and simply make the triangle directly on the pattern. What enchanted me about this was the ease of finding the resultant angle by measuring the hypotenuse. Perhaps I'm just a total nerd, but this one made my day!

*** One of the comments that I got questioned whether the Bevel Boss scale was created by measuring from a single point for all of the angles. This method presupposes that it is, and it isn't! That's the bad news, the good news is that the angles below 30 degrees do converge nicely and since theses are the numbers usually used in chairs, the scale should work fine. .***