Thursday, May 17, 2012


I've been working on a continuous arm settee and as I've been reaching for tools, I've been using my "sanding flap" wheel on the backs to help hollow them out for sharpening.  Today, I was finishing the cutout on the side of the seat, shown above, and figured it was a good time to take one of my favorite knives off the wall and give it a once over.

This cut is tricky on a regular seat, and even more so on a settee because the cove is all endgrain. Nothing but the sharpest knife will do.

So I got out my angle grinder (you have bought one, right!?) and went to work on the back of the drawknife. The knife that I use for this is very special. It doesn't have much steel left on it and I don't grind a bevel on it. Instead, I round the front (which rides in the cut) and flatten the back. Of course, a rounded front is very hard to sharpen because of the difficulty honing it. So the back is where the action is.

By flattening the back and honing it until a burr turns to the front, I get a great edge. I run through all of the stones on the back and only touch the front to the final stone and strop it lightly. I don't strop the back because I want it perfectly flat. With the hollowing help of the grinder, I got the thing sharper than I've ever had it and the cove on the seat was a breeze!
Click on the image for a closer look

Since I've been reforming my tools, I've picked up a new habit that I'm ashamed to say I didn't years ago. I've started oiling all of my edge tools with camelia oil before stowing them. It may seem like a little thing, but rust never sleeps and a sharp edge is a tiny place, easily affected.

Now I take the tool off the rack and give it a quick rub with a paper towel and let it sing.

Here is the settee, all legged up.

Since spring has sprung, I have been enjoying all the work that the previous owners of our house put into their gardens. Here is a rhododendron outside my shop window.

Great stuff, but poison to goats, so watch out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Wood and Travisher Update

Recently, my friend Dan Monsees and I went to his parents land and cut down a bunch of trees. Roz and Pete were incredibly generous and lined up all of the hauling and sawing apparatus. Having moved to a new area and losing my decade long sawyer connection, this was a great gift.

We used a Timber King bandsaw (which my friends in Australia import as well) to mill the walnut, maple and oak.

The walnut is one type of wood that I always have sawn, but coming across a supply that hasn't been run through the kiln is tough. Some of the boards are wide enough for one piece seats!!
The oak, I had sawn for rockers and the parts of my "Crested Rocker" that are more easily handled dry, such as the arms.

The real surprise was when we took down the maples. They were curly through and through. Which is not my choice for chairs (I know, it's a personal preference but I find curly chairs a bit too intense) but for tool making and flat work, it's great stuff.

But the maple trees had one more surprise, they were further colored by Ambrosia beetles. You can see the telltale color on the endgrain.

And what a sight when they were sawn!

I wouldn't use this wood in chairs, so I was a bit confused about how to saw it. I had a variety of boards made, mainly for table tops and legs. Some will definitely end up in travishers when it's dry.

On the travisher note. I have received many more orders than I anticipated and it pushed me to engage a machinist to mill the metal parts for better speed and consistency. I also bought a gas forge for more control over the heat treating process. But this has pushed my output back a bit. I hope to be fillng orders in the next couple of weeks and to have all the orders filled as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Louie gets his finger back

When folks meet me at a show or display, they often ask whether the craft was passed on to me by my family, and I answer no. I think that they yearn to hear that there is a generations old tradition for which I am the torch bearer. Well, in some ways it is true.

When my grandfather Louie Kaplan was a teenager, circa the 1930's, he was showing another student at the high school how to use the jointer (I imagine a gorgeous old Oliver or something), he managed to nip off the end of his pinkie finger. Of course, as a child, the story shifted to a warning of the dangers of nail biting, but as I took to woodworking, he seemed to take more and more pride in explaining the end of his woodworking career.
Louie went on to become a pillar of the St. Paul community on a variety of levels. While he barely stood 5 feet tall, his name could unlock doors, and drinks, all over the twin cities. I won't bore you with tales, but suffice it to say, as a child companion of his, I was as close to a prince as I'll ever be.
We buried Louie the other day, and if he hadn't outlived most of his peers, reaching 97, I swear that half of St. Paul would have shut down.
Witnessing the impact that one man could have on his community, and the joy and endearment that he brought, even to his nurses at the end of his life, was humbling.
I've received plenty of kind remarks about my postings here, but rest assured, there is much work to be done if I am going to fill his tiny shoes.