Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Perfect Timing

It really isn't often that one can bask in the glow of perfect timing, but getting the roof on my new woodshed, the day before the first snow sure felt good!

My most recent rocker design allowed me to try many things that I've always wanted to try. One of the most surprising and simple of the new technologies is the square peg. It just doesn't seem like it would work, driving a square peg into a round hole and ending up with a clean square showing. But it does!

The process begins with the drill bit. I've been told that this works best with bits that are 3/16" or less. The one that I used on my chairs is a bit larger and worked fine. Once the bit is selected, it's time to shave some square pegs that are just a hair larger than the bits diameter (this will account for the hole being slightly larger than the bit).

Once the peg is shaved square, I chamfer the end that will enter the hole first. On my second chair using square pegs, I drove the peg 1/8th" into a steel plate with the same size hole as the bit. This created a perfectly sized end to enter the mortise.

Below is an image of the pegs after being driven home. One has also been chamfered into a pyramid shape. At first I was surprised that the peg didn't split the mortised piece, but after doing it a few times, I realized that to do so, the diameter of the peg would have to be larger than the mortise. Because only the corner of the pegs are larger than the mortise, they simply compress as they cut their way into the corners of the mortise. By the time the peg is driven all the way in, all that you can see is the clean corners.

I highly recommend giving this one a try, if for no other reason than to stand back and be amazed that it works.
I've enjoyed seeing folks at my new showroom being drawn to the contrasting pegs. They just can't help but touch them, a fine result.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Anyone who's read through my blog is aware of two facts about me, I'm a tightwad when it comes to buying tools, and I firmly believe in measuring by eye. Refining the ability to measure by eye is actually less about seeing and more about questioning. For instance,when determining whether to surfaces are square, if I look at it and try to make it square, I will quickly convince myself that it is square, or worse, square enough! But if I ask myself, how is it not square? I am on the road to accuracy. It takes a bit of energy, and honesty, but the assumption that you are off will reward you with keener vision and results. My lovely bride sent me this link the other day

This site is fantastic. It is a series of visual tests where you determine by eye certain geometric tasks, and are graded on your accuracy. I have only done it once, and plan to do it again (my score was 2.90). It was interesting using my "shop brain" while at the computer. Take a couple minutes and visit the site, it's a must for shop monkeys!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Beginnings

I can tell when I've been delinquent in my blog posting when calls start coming in checking on my health! Honest, I'm fine, but the past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I am proud to announce that my chairs are now on display at The Matthew Solomon Gallery in Narrowsburg, New York

It's taken some effort, on top of my production and teaching schedule, to get the new space up and running. Matthew Solomon is a friend of mine and a brilliant ceramic artist. We are both excited about the new venture.

Below is a picture of another exciting beginning. I was surveying my property for a cherry tree to cut down for some new chairs, and found this nice straight one that seems to have some sort of disease. I chopped through the gummy excretions and the sap wood to find the heart still perfect. Lucky timing! I love it when the tree provides a good reason for the timing of its cutting.

Also lucky for me, is that I had a gorgeous fall day and two friends to help me mill the tree up. Here is Rich Pallaria (on the left) and Don Scott. I couldn't ask for two better helpers or company in the woods on a crisp fall day. Cherry doesn't like to split nicely, and I hate to waste good wood, so I've taken to milling it into 2 inch thick boards that give me the choice of creating turnings or perhaps seats.

Here we are milling the trunk. It is slow going but for chairs, the technology fits the bill. I'd hate to be milling 1 inch stock, because of the waste of the kerf and the time consumption, but for chairs, I get plenty of wood for the effort.

Here is the resulting lumber, stacked in my new shed addition (the roof will go on next week, I hope). I placed the drill to give a sense of scale. This is wood that would fetch a premium at the lumber dealer, and I feel lucky to have it plentiful and free on my property, then again, have you seen my tax bills!