A Day of Infinite Frustration, but Success in the End

My primary task on Monday was to build a sample project for a seminar I’m teaching later this month called Make an Infinity Mirror Clock.

Despite a number of unexpected complications, one miscalculation, a few mistakes, and a spring clamp launching itself right past my ear (wear eye protection when using clamps!), I got the clock finished and photographed in one day. I was happy about that.

Infinity Mirror Clock

The design relies on LED tape lighting and a special set of mirrors to create the illusion of infinite depth. Its actual depth is only 1.5″.

I will be leading a class through the process of making one of these Saturday, March 22nd at Lee Valley Coquitlam. You can find more information on the class on the page linked at the bottom of this article.

Links:

Butternut Bedside Table

This bedside table is my latest commissioned work.  It is made of butternut.

Butternut Bedside Table

Although some woodworkers don’t like to use knots in their work, I really like the focal point which a knot can provide.  The grain around the knot is also very interesting and pretty.

Butternut Bedside Table Detail

In the past, when using wood with two live edges, I have employed a few different techniques for addressing the cut ends.  In this case, I sculpted the ends so that the profile at each edge matched the angle of the live edge.  Since the angles of the live edge were not equal, this of course resulted in a twisted end-grain surface.

You can find the product page for this table with the critical details HERE.

Also, please have a look at my newly formatted Gallery.

How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 2

Sunday afternoon, I started a project with a board of butternut (I thought it was walnut at first).  The idea was to let the wood dictate the end result.  I documented the process of building and mounting wall brackets live on Twitter and what you see below are the updates from Day 2: Monday (you can read the first day of this project in How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 1).  This was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, the @ symbol indicates a username.  Every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you will see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you will see is #, which serves as a category.  I tried to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks So this is where I left off yesterday. Follow along with #flairww  -12:24 PM Feb 13th, 2012 pic.twitter.com/8mmHxwDo FlairWoodworks In this tight area I’m able to hold the chisel like this and move it diagonally in the direction of the arrow. #flairww -12:55 PM Feb 13th, 2012

ravinheart @FlairWoodworks LOL .. hey, I see him now -12:25 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Working in restricted spaces is one of the biggest challenges. #flairww -12:50 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This section is now shaped. #flairww -1:07 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks If a curve feels fair, it’s fair. I use my sense of touch to judge my progress. #flairww -1:12 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks As I work on this carving, I feel the need to add some colour. What do you think? Paint? Dye? Stain? Nothing? #flairww -2:24 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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asliceofwood @FlairWoodworks maybe a little darker or something to make the grain “pop” -2:28 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks You think that’s all it needs? #flairww RT @asliceofwood: @FlairWoodworks maybe a little darker or something to make the grain “pop” -2:35 PM Feb 13th, 2012

asliceofwood @FlairWoodworks yeah. I’m a fan of natural. The design looks great. -2:37 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Tim. #flairww RT @asliceofwood: @FlairWoodworks yeah. I’m a fan of natural. The design looks great. -2:37 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I have to figure out what to do about this crack which is about 3/4″ deep at the near end and gets shallower. #flairww -2:45 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I love textures. #flairww -2:50 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This crack just won’t work. I’m going to cut it out and reassemble the two pieces. #flairww -3:04 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Here is the result of one cut on the bandsaw.#flairww -3:08 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m taking advantage of the easy access with the bottom removed and carving the otherwise restricted areas. #flairww -3:13 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks The trick with the ribbon is to make it look delicate without being delicate. I bevelled the ends. #flairww -3:24 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I use my thumb and finger to gauge the thickness. If it feels right, it’s right. #flairww -3:26 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Because the ribbon is fragile, I used a piece of plywood to support it while carving the back. #flairww -3:55 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Good idea – the grain direction looks like it would make it even more fragile. #flairww What’s the project? -3:57 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan The project has been evolving since the get-go. Right now, it looks like a runner crossing the finish line. #flairww -3:59 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m just carving and letting the piece lead the way. #flairww -4:00 PM Feb 13th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Cool! I’ve never tried that before (abstract isn’t my gift). -4:07 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks When using a gouge across the grain, one side of the cut is always with the grain and the other side against. #flairww -4:15 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks When shaping convex surfaces, often a wide, flat chisel (and not a carving gouge) is the best tool. #flairww -4:16 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I removed most of the material from the back of the ribbon then glued the two pieces back together. #flairww -4:55 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I have to wait for the glue to cure, so It’s a good place to stop for the day. #flairww -4:58 PM Feb 13th, 2012

To be continued…

How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 1

Sunday afternoon, I started a project with a board of butternut (I thought it was walnut at first).  The idea was to let the wood dictate the end result.  I documented the process of building and mounting wall brackets live on Twitter and what you see below are the updates from Sunday (the project wasn’t completed in one day and so there will be more to come).  This was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, the @ symbol indicates a username.  Every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you will see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you will see is #, which serves as a category.  I tried to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

“The inspiration for me was this irregular butternut board and a table by Jennifer Anderson called Pattern Study 1 but I was willing to listen to what the board I had on hand wanted me to do.  By the end of day one, it was clear that I was not making a table.”

Pattern Study 1 by Jennifer Anderson

FlairWoodworks I’ve got this walnut board that tapers in thickness and has a live edge. Follow my inspired process with #flairww -12:29 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’ve surfaced one face which revealed long checks (cracks) on it. Cutting them out would be wasteful. #flairww -12:31 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This is going to be a carving exercise to incorporate the checks into the design. There are no defects. #flairww -12:35 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I started by defining the edges with a V-gouge. #flairww -12:38 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I used a series of gouges to excavate between the V cuts. From left to right: 5/12, 7/10 and 9/10 gouges. #flairww -12:45 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks My 9/10 gouge is used extensively for roughing – much like a scrub plane. #flairww -12:58 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks Very cool…can’t wait to see the finished product of your inspiration. -12:59 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Same here! RT @WatkinsWoodWork: @FlairWoodworks Very cool…can’t wait to see the finished product of your inspiration. -1:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I had intended to have more cuts terminating in wide curves at the near edge but it’s already quite busy. #flairww -1:20 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Here’s my new plan. #flairww -1:24 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This deep relief visually reduces the thickness of the board. I think I still need to go deeper though. #flairww -1:36 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks Yup…I agree. A bit more depth should give a nice flow. -1:39 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My 9/25 gouge is for when I’m serious about stock removal. My 9/10 is in the background. #flairww -1:39 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I think this looks awesome! Notice the shine on the carved surface. #flairww -1:46 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This end is done for now. I think I need to make the other end scoops deeper now. #flairww -1:56 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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TomsWorkbench @FlairWoodworks Is this a new Br’all design? -1:58 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks No sir! RT @TomsWorkbench: @FlairWoodworks Is this a new Br’all design? #flairww -1:59 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Parts of this walnut are surprisingly hard! Sections feel like hard maple. #flairww -2:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m not really happy with this scoop. I want the curve to be steeper but don’t have the required thickness. #flairww -2:07 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks Very nice -2:20 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Okay – I’m back after getting a bite to eat. The carving is certainly lacking but I’m not sure what it needs. #flairww -3:17 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s coming along but I’m still trying to figure out where it’s going. #flairww -3:46 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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“At this point, I was not at all happy with how it was turning out.  To me, it looked like a board with one live edge, a big crack, and a whole bunch of random scoops taken out of it.  Yuck.  If I hadn’t been documenting the progress live on Twitter all along, I might have tossed it in the firewood box.  But I kept working on it, hoping that something would emerge.  Eventually something did emerge.”

FlairWoodworks I rounded over the shoulders of the cracks that I was unable to carve out. #flairww -3:57 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks I like this process, letting the project evolve organically. -3:59 PM Feb 12th, 2012

cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks That’s looking good. How easy was it to cut? -4:01 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I don’t think enough people allow it to happen. RT @cobwobbler: @FlairWoodworks I like this process, letting the project evolve organically -4:02 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @cobwobbler Some parts are easy, some areas are harder and challenging. -4:02 PM Feb 12th, 2012

cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks Now it’s flowing like a river bed. Nice. -4:04 PM Feb 12th, 2012

cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks yes that works, it’s got a real flow and almost a sense of movement. -4:06 PM Feb 12th, 2012

WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks I like it. The check was distracting. -4:09 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a wide chisel, bevel-down, to extend the rounded corners. #flairww -4:09 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I like the part I just did but the rest looks lacking. I might use a saw to cut more “checks” into the board. #flairww -4:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Pay attention to the wood. This little knot is a signal that the grain may change direction. #flairww -4:26 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MichaelAgate @FlairWoodworks Chris, perhaps it is fine just like it is. Sometimes knowing where to stop is the challenge :) We all like it here :) -4:26 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @MichaelAgate Thanks for the input, Michael and company. However, I feel it is not done yet. Onwards! #flairww -4:28 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I feel that I am on the right track. That’s good because it’s very difficult to undo carving ;) #flairww -4:33 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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asliceofwood @FlairWoodworks looking good! Like all these little tips. -4:39 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It was still looking too blocky so I went to the bandsaw and made a series of cuts. Now I’ll refine it with carving tools. #flairww -4:58 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks For unrestricted access to the edge, I clamped a short 2×4 in my vise and clamped the workpiece to it. #flairww -5:04 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m really not happy with how uniform it looks. Time for some adjustments on the bandsaw. #flairww -5:09 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks When I come across an inconsistency like this I have to decide whether to incorporate or eliminate it. #flairww -5:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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HighRockWW @FlairWoodworks I like the looks of the rest that I can see. -5:24 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks character -5:24 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m starting to see something! Can you see it? This is #exciting! #flairww -5:27 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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ravinheart @FlairWoodworks Yup I can see it it’s in there just keep letting it out -5:30 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks yes -5:34 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve learned to embrace sanding as sometimes it, just like any other technique, has its place. 1 side sanded. #flairww -5:46 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Having dust collection nearby doesn’t catch all the dust but it gets most, if not all, of the airborne dust. #flairww -5:54 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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ravinheart: @FlairWoodworks a tree within a tree, water, and motion #flairww -5:56 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks We must remember to be patient with the creative process. #flairww -6:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks A highway interchange, Dr Seuss’s horns from the Grinch, fine carving work, your mad skills, and my lack of artistry -6:14 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks I keep asking myself: “but what’s it DO?” #TheEngineerLooksAtArt -6:17 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha ha ha! I was doing that too. #flairww RT @MansFineFurn: @FlairWoodworks I keep asking myself: “but what’s it DO?” #TheEngineerLooksAtArt -6:17 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Would anyone else care to share what they see here? #flairww  -6:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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ravinheart @FlairWoodworks a running man would be in motion :) -6:22 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Flairwoodworks If you were closer I might throw him at you! ;) RT @ravinheart: @FlairWoodworks a running man would be in motion :) -6:23 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @ravinheart sees a tree, water and motion. @MansFineFurn sees a highway interchange or Grinch horns. I see a runner. #flairww -6:25 PM Feb 12th, 2012

ravinheart @FlairWoodworks there will be no throwing :P

FlairWoodworks Ok. Dinner break. #flairww -6:29 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Tooltutor @FlairWoodworks Looks like a tree on its side being struck by a meteorite…or a flowing river being hit by a meteorite =P -6:40 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Seanw78 @FlairWoodworks something between antlers and a blowing wind -7:15 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks for sharing! #flairww RT @Seanw78: @FlairWoodworks something between antlers and a blowing wind -7:18 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks So I’m back after dinner and thinking about some major material removal, as indicated by the scribble. #flairww -8:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I think Andrew @RavinHeart may have inspired me to make this cut by hand instead of the bandsaw. #flairww -8:35 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Two cutouts complete. I’m going to do some shaping next. #flairww -8:44 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks The correct sweep of gouge is determined by which part of the edge engages. The corners should not engage. #flairww -8:56 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Out damned crack! I know it doesn’t go through but I can’t tell how deep it is. I’ll keep going… #flairww -9:03 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m defining what I think is a ribbon running horizontally across what I think is the waist of the runner. #flairww -9:33 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m using a 15/6 (60-degree V) gouge to undercut the ribbon. #flairww -9:49 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want to remove this narrow bit that I’ve shaded but I know it will mean a lot more work. It’s worth it. #flairww -10:12 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks A good tool solves problems without causing any. This Knew Concepts fret saw is certainly a good tool. #flairww -10:16 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Tumblewood @FlairWoodworks fun to watch your creative improvisation. -10:34 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Vic! #flairww -10:37 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I finished roughing the cutout. Now to refine that confined space. Not fun. #flairww -10:42 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time for another break! #flairww -11:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

The carving is continued in How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 2.

The Reward For Hard Work

The past two weeks, I’ve spent an awful lot of time in the shop, on top of the approximately 30 hours per week I’ve been working at Lee Valley.

One of the projects I am working on is a carved headboard. By far, it has to be the most labour-intensive project I’ve done to date. So far, I’ve put in over 40 hours into the panel alone. Tonight, I completed the carving. I put in some long days – the worst was the seven-hour day. The seven hours wasn’t so bad. What was bad was not taking any breaks – my fault. When I finished the day and could barely stand.

The next day was a rough one. (Luckily?) I was working that day at Lee Valley, so my progress in the shop was not inhibited by my rough shape. As I’ve said before: “I never want to got to work feeling rested.” It’s 10:30 pm and I just got out of the shop. I’m exhausted both mentally and physically – I’ve lost my train of thought and can barely type. Time for bed. I’m very happy with how the project is coming along.