A Relaxing Day Off on Canada Day

Today, I’m doing whatever I please
so I set up my horses under the trees.

My workpiece is happy, content in the shade –
these perfect conditions I wouldn’t dare trade.

Finish goes on easily. I’m in no rush;
I make slow, deliberate strokes with my brush.

The urethane flows nicely and quickly dries
before it bears witness to footprints of flies.

I’m almost done now and the sun is quite near
so I clean up my brush, then head for a beer.

Build-Off: Canadian Woodworking’s Hand Tool Building Event

Ever since the Shop Stool Build-Off, woodworkers everywhere have been looking for more opportunities to participate in online group builds. Canadian Woodworking recently announced their second build-off called, Building Together – Shop Tools.

I’ve made a number of tools for my own shop, and this scrub plane could well be the most-used.

Yellow birch and Lignum vitae scrub plane

Yellow birch and Lignum vitae scrub plane

The event runs for the duration of August and is open to everyone – you just need to share your project on the magazine’s forum. Currently, prizes are being organized. Check out their website to get full details and inspiration for shop tools you can build.

Roots of Flair: Pushing the Limits

In 2007, I was into turning in a big way. I got into turning pens using exotic woods carefully paired with a package of pen hardware. My preference was chrome-plated hardware for its durability and affordable price. The result, when paired with African Blackwood, was an undeniably classy pen.

DSC_9024

Black & Chrome pen

One special piece of wood was often inspiration enough to turn a pen. For this lead holder, I used a piece of bocote which was half heartwood and half sapwood.

DSC_9026

Bocote Lead Holder

Eventually, I began playing with different shapes and materials. I particularly liked the shape of the lower barrel of this European pen, and liked the bold colour and pattern of this acetate.

DSC_9023

Black & Blue pen

However, I eventually grew tired of working with stock pen kits, I opened all of my pen kit hardware and threw the parts into a big jar and I was free to mix and match parts.

In an attempt to see how short of a pen I could create that was still comfortable to use, I created this Micro-Ebony pen. It was exhilarating cutting the Cross refill shorter and shorter, hoping that I wouldn’t hit ink. I never did. The streaky African ebony offered a sophisticated look and a strong contrast to the chrome hardware.

DSC_9030

Micro Ebony pen

I’ve made all sorts of pens, but eventually grew tired of turning pens, which are fairly limiting in form. I have always done my best work when pushing the limits, and turning pens had too many constraints. The other reason I stopped making pens was that I had way more pens than I needed.

In that spirit, I am listing the four writing instruments shown above for sale.

Links:

Finishing Puzzle Table

After routing the jigsaw puzzle design, I made a base out of four mitred lengths of black walnut to raise the table up off the ground. That way, it didn’t just look like a cube sitting on the ground.

Puzzle Table17

Then came finishing. Let’s just say that it required some patience to get an even coat of finish on the edges of each of the 169 puzzle pieces.

Puzzle Table16Puzzle Table15

After the finish dried, I set it up for some studio photographs. This one shot captured the essence of the table pretty well, I thought.

Jigsaw Puzzle Table1

Find all the details for Jigsaw Puzzle Table on the product page.

Links:

Shop Stools, Revisited on Craftsy.com

It’s official! I’m now a contributor to the Craftsy woodworking blog.

My first article, fittingly, is about shop stools. In the article, I discuss some basic principles that make a good shop stool, then provide some practical ideas backed up by photos from the Shop Stool Build-Off.

Read the article on the Craftsy Woodworking Blog.

Craftsy Blog

Routing the Puzzle Pieces for Puzzle Table

After gluing up the four sides, my next step was to rout in the puzzle pieces.

I used three combination squares referenced off of each edge to lay out a grid, which represented the size and location of the puzzle pieces.

Puzzle Table10

Pencil can be difficult to see on black walnut, but I found that roughing up the planed surface with 120-grit sandpaper made the lines easier to see.

Puzzle Table11

I routed the jigsaw puzzle design with a 1/8″ spiral bit, doing one line at a time.

Puzzle Table12 It was very gratifying to see one surface completed.

Puzzle Table13

Next, I rolled the cube and continued routing puzzle pieces into the other faces.

Puzzle Table14

Assembling Puzzle Table

After a week making the inside surfaces glossy and blue, I was back to making sawdust.

I mitred the ends of the panels with my sliding table saw, using a stop block to ensure that they were all the same length. I appreciated the fact that my carefully-painted surfaces were able to just sit on the sliding table and glide past the blade, rather than be pushed across the table and risk scratching them.

Puzzle Table5To make assembly easier, and for reinforcement, I cut mortises in the mitres with my Domino Joiner.

Puzzle Table6 Using Domino floating tenons, all I had to do was get them started in the mortises, then use a mallet to drive the parts together.  Alignment was guaranteed.

Puzzle Table7

The floating tenons are strong, too! I first assembled the sides in pairs.

Puzzle Table8 Then I put the two halves together and clamped the entire assembly with web clamps.

Puzzle Table9

It was really exciting to get to this stage, but the next stage is pretty exciting too – cutting the puzzle pieces!

Roots of Flair: Accepting Wood Movement

At some point in time, every woodworker has cursed the fact that wood expands in humid weather and contracts in dry weather. Because of it, lumber that was once straight became curved, twisted, or both. Parts that once fit snugly became loose, or impossibly tight.

Turning green (freshly cut) wood was how I learned firsthand how much wood can move, and how quickly it can move. I got hooked on turning goblets, which were fun to turn, and could be turned in an afternoon. I learned a lot about grain direction, wood’s strengths and weaknesses, and, after about a week’s time drying, how much wood could change shape as it dried.

I have added three goblets to my website that are for sale, at a price of $30 each.

DSC_9196 As long as we are dealing with solid lumber, wood movement is inevitable. Don’t ignore it and don’t fight it. Accept it.

When designing, I take wood movement into consideration. Sometimes that means using wood cut a certain way (e.g. quartersawn) to focus the expansion and contraction in one direction. Other times, it means using reinforcement (e.g. battens) to keep things aligned. And sometimes, it means just letting the wood do whatever it wants.

If you are interested in learning more about turning goblets from green wood, I recommend Turning Green Wood by Michael O’Donnell, one of the books on my page, Recommended Readings.

Links:

Puzzle Table

Recently, I received a commission to build a coffee table with a jigsaw puzzle design on the surface. The idea was to use a dark wood on the outside and paint the inside blue.

Puzzle Table Sketch

I wanted straight-grained walnut for the outside so not to distract from the puzzle pieces being routed on the surface. Since I wasn’t able to procure enough rift-sawn or flat-sawn walnut, I took 8/4 (2″ thick) flat-sawn walnut and cut it into 1/4″ thick strips. I then arranged them in a slip-match pattern and glued them to a substrate of 1″ plywood. This was to help keep the wood stable as it makes its way across the continent to Florida.

Puzzle Table1 Once the glue was dry, I cleaned up the surface and levelled the joints with a card scraper.

Puzzle Table2 Then I glued walnut onto the edges of the table and used cauls to distribute the pressure evenly.

Puzzle Table3

My next steps are to prep the opposite face for painting, before mitering the ends and joining the four sides into the box.

Puzzle Table4