Friday, February 18, 2011

Breaking the rules, but not the edges

In finishing up the walnut rocker this week, I figured it might be worth sharing some of the techniques that I use to get fluid shapes and crisp edges. Walnut has such a clarity in grain and texture, that it calls for extra attention when treating the surfaces. While many of the parts are shaved with a spokeshave to their final state, such as the legs, others, where I want to stress the shape and wood grain are scraped and sanded.

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to shaving, scraping and sanding. You don't follow sandpaper with an edge tool. The sandpaper leaves grit embedded in the surface that can dull or cause minute chipping of the blade, and generally, I adhere to this principle. But in this case, I bend or even break the rules to get the desired result.

After my initial scraping, it sand the carved area with 220 grit sandpaper and a felt block. I try to be very thorough in producing and even scratch pattern. After I've done this though, invariably, I notice the unevenness that I missed in the scraping. So I pull out the scraper again and lightly scrape the surface, and the low spots remain dull while the highs get cut. It's always surprising how much this helps the overall shape become fluid.

I figure that the scraper is an intermediate tool anyway, and easy to sharpen, so I don't mind following the sandpaper. Then I sand again through to 320 grit and feel the surface with my hand flat on the seat, quickly running it in all directions to feel for more subtle discrepancies.

I don't carve a gutter in seats that are left natural, preferring to leave a simple, clean transition from the carved area to the flat. This can be tough to  do, and makes me realize that the gutter isn't just decorative, but serves as a sort of trim, to help cover the sins of less than perfect transitions!

To get the sharp edge that I want, requires first that the carved shape be even and fluid. I do this as normal, with a travisher, scraper and then sandpaper. But sanding a perfect edge into the transition can be tough because it's actually quite an obtuse angle.

But I still try my best. Now here is where I really break the rules. I reach for my handplane to surface the flat. Before I do this, I brush the surface and use a microfiber cloth to remove as much of the embedded grit as I can. Then I plane down a few shavings and the crisp edge appears.

As I said, this only works if the carved shape and surface is even and fluid. But it solves the transition issue in a wood that shows every detail.

Here is the seat after the whole deck has been planed.

Here is the latest spoon available for purchase! So please email me if you want your name put in the hat.

This is apple wood and has some striking figuring in the bowl. It's $45 plus $5 shipping.

It is a good shape for all around kitchen use. Good luck!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Silky Goes National

The article that I wrote for Fine Woodworking has finally reached the printed page! It's about my crested rocker and will span two issues. When Mark Schofield suggested that we take my profile photo with my one day old goat, I assured him that it was one way to guarantee a big dumb smile. He said that dogs had become passe, but a goat, now that's worth printing.

Speaking of the crested rocker, here is one made by Walt Crawford here in my shop this week.

I had a great time teaching it, actually, more than I'd expected. Walt did a fine job and had made enough chairs to really appreciate the places where this chair diverges from the norm.
I have more spoons to post for the Hunger Project, but Walt kept me running this week, so stay tuned.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Put Down Your Coffee and Look at This!

I've always respected Greg Pennington as a chairmaker and teacher, but now I have to add genius to the list. Go to his blog and check out his latest idea. It really shows Greg's commitment to helping make chairmaking accessible. I also appreciate that Greg has embraced the mindset handed down by Dave Sawyer to freely share his techniques! Well Done!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Inspiration Drops by for a Visit

Today, Erik Buchakian stopped by the house and shop. Eric is another local resident here in the southern Catskills and we share a passion for spoon carving. Eric is also on the Board at Drew Langsner's Country Workshops and has taken classes with and befriended the Sunquist family. Wille and Jogge Sundquist are the renowned woodworkers and carvers that have inspired so many to pick up a knife and work some wood. Wille was in Fine Woodworking back when they would still take photos of you in nothing but jean shorts and a hatchet!

Eric brought along his collection of Sunquist spoons. The red ones are by the son Jogge and the others are Willes'. It was like having the museum come to me!

Here are some close ups.

One of the areas that I've yet to become comfortable with is designing pattern and detailing, these pieces show such mastery, that I am going to work at it.

These are so soulful that you just have to hold them.

This salad fork was especially eye catching.

I loved the shape of this spoon, and the utility of it makes perfect sense, it gets into squared or rounded containers. I've been working on leaving consistent facets on my unsanded spoons, but this shows just how far I have to go.

The play of thick and thin is especially dramatic in this side view.

I've never gotten to see spoons by these guys up close. Like most true mastery, they ring of simplicity and clarity. Thanks Erik for the great visit!

On other spoon related news, Harry Miller won the latest drawing for the Spoons for Hunger drawing. I have been busy making more (ah winter) and will post the next one early next week.