Monday, January 3, 2011

The Wandering Mind

I'm sure that I'm not alone in having a slow start back to work after the holidays. But I must admit that slow starts are not all that uncommon for me. Over the years, I've come to accept that my often scattered approach to engaging tasks is probably linked to the creative part of my brain and that I should just accept that sometimes it's the long way around that gets me there. Today I have been "following my nose" around trying to reengage.

You might remember my interest in using felt as a clamping tool. I am quite impressed with the results so far and found a company that manufactures felts in different thickness and hardness. The kind people at Durafelt sent me this array of samples to test. So I combined the test with another, which was about bending kiln dried walnut for an upcoming chair.

The walnut bent well even though it was 1 inch thick and almost 2" wide. I steamed it for about 1 hour.  I put the felt under the metal clamp to see if I could dent the wood. On previous bends, with a thicker pad, I noticed how the felt actually held the negative shape of the workpiece after being removed. This opens up plenty of possibilities. Soon I'll post which of the samples that I like best.

Along the lines of restricting the bends to one plane (like I showed with the plywood form a few posts back) I've been horsing around with this form for bending the rear posts while they are still octagonal.
I'll be bending the walnut with this soon.

Sometimes its a good idea to work on the last stages of one project while starting another. This can boost that lacking sense of achievement!

Lately, I've been applying two coats of the Real Milk Paint Company's Raw Tung oil and letting it dry a few days inbetween. Then I finish with a few coats of Minwax Antique Oil to give it some sheen and hardness. I like that the first coats are non toxic and take care of the "soaking in" and the last coats I apply the oil more like a padding varnish, with light coats as I work my way around the chair. Flooding the chair with the Minwax product is ill advised as it will tack up before you can get to it!

In answer to a readers question, here is the set up for drilling out the reamer to accept a bit in the back. I simply remove the tail stock from the lathe and the blade from the reamer and jam fit the reamer in. As long as you have the center well marked on the endgrain, it all works out fine. Anyone who has a reamer and doesn't wish to alter it, could just turn a new wooden body and give it a shot with the old blade.

I have a new favorite side chair. Andy Jack and I tag teamed on building this one (he did most of the work!) and I've been using it at my computer and enjoying the comfort. I brought it back to the shop to complete my notes on it to make sure that I can reproduce it properly once it goes to live with Andy.

Ah vanity, there you are! I have always branded and signed my chairs, but have resisted the urge with my spoons, but at the request of the purchaser of the Ladle that I recently posted, I started looking into ways to burn my signature on them. I looked at some units online and didn't feel very inspired, so I went to the shop, ground the end of an old chainsaw file and heated it with my map gas torch.

The need to reheat it in the middle of a word made me feel like Ben Franklin dipping his pen. Not super efficient, but I only have to write two words!

Before the signature request, I did make a small brand from the end of a piece of steel.

The beauty of doing it this way is that the result always looks better than the tool would suggest.

Here is a recent spoon that I practiced signing. It has a knot right in the bottom of the bowl and therefore some cracks, so I'll just keep this one, but I thought the position of the bowl in relation to the handle was worth showing.

I have also been enjoying working with the contrast of the heart to sapwood colors. When it comes to finishing these, I do scrape and sand the bowl and often a portion of the handle. It's important to wet these areas and then allow them to fully dry before resanding. This will reduce any grain raising after they are used or washed. Then I soak them repeatedly in a jar of oil.


After a soaking like this, it takes weeks to fully cure!
And finally, I've been organizing my new basement powertool shop. That's right, I have cabinet doors that just refuse to build themselves, so it seemed time to do it right!

I soaked my brother Andrew for his energy and talent while he was here over the holidays. We walled off a large part of the basement and lit it up. I'm actually looking forward to what might come out of this shop, plus, no more sanding rust off of my table saw!

I read an interesting book recently (more on this later) that focused on the evolution of ideas. One of the chapters was on the concept of exaptation. Exaptation is when something that serves one purpose switches function to find use in another. One example that comes to mind is the way that my V block holding jig for drilling legs gave me the idea for the Galbert Caliper. This cross pollination of possibilities gives me solace on days like today, when no one task or idea takes center stage, but who knows what I might stumble across as a result of my wandering mind.


Anonymous said...


What type of oil are you soaking the spoons in? Just wondering if there are any food safety issues.

Peter Galbert said...

It's pure raw tung oil. There are no additives or dryers which is why it takes so long to cure, but some patience and reapplication early in the spoons useful life and the finish is quite durable. The only other oil that I am aware of that actually hardens and offers water resistance is walnut oil, but I've found the tung to be cheaper and faster building. All of the other oils stay soft and risk becoming rancid. I'm sure you can find more info online, but I'm content with the tung oil.

Anonymous said...

Linseed oil (cold pressed) also hardens and is used a lot in the UK.

Great rambling post, loved it!

Peter Galbert said...

You are absolutely correct about the linseed. I've found that the linseed takes longer than my patience will hold to cure and the water resistance is less than the tung oil. One tip that I try to enforce in my home is to avoid harsh detergents and soaking in the sink. If there is a good finish on it, a thorough rinse with a bit of soap will keep it fine regardless of which oil you choose.
Thanks for the correction on the linseed!

James said...

Wow, I'm feeling the same way..... Instead of gluing up some boxes I just cut out, I'm reading your blog. I know it's not because I'm artistic. Heck, I even wrought a long list of things to complete today on the board. I just going to concede I'm just being LAZY!

Peter Galbert said...

Lazy, artistic, whatever, no one's keeping score! I prefer to think of my lack of focus as productive, that way I avoid any guilt, which I know for a fact is unproductive!)

jaupnort said...

Peter, have you considered kolrosing for signing your spoons? If you are not familiar with this method of old scandinavian decoration google it.
John Anderson

Jack Mc said...

As for adding tension on legs by increasing the lenght of the stretches, I did that ONCE, and the added pressure needed to seat the legs in their sockets CRACKED the white pine seat! So much for that idea. Jack McA.

Peter Galbert said...

thanks for confirming my suspicions. It seems kind of bizarre to spend so much time getting the joinery right and then throwing a wrench into the measurements!