Willingness to Try

Unlike some, I don’t shy away from trying techniques and processes that are new to me.

If you rely on somebody to show you how to do something, you may learn how to perform that task proficiently but you may not ever know how to do it another way, or develop your own methods of work. More significantly, you will never make a breakthrough and develop a new technique never before used.

Crossing Joint

Now, if your goal is to be able to make high-quality woodwork, simply mastering the well established techniques that we all read about should be enough. I do believe that having a solid understanding of the basics is essential, and knowing advanced techniques is useful as well.

It’s the willingness to look beyond what you know, and experiment, that will really help you develop on your own. This is the path to innovation.

To see if a process can be improved upon, focus on the desired outcome and identify which processes you know can be used to complete the task. Don’t stop there. Continue to examine the product and try to figure out how else it can be achieved. Chances are, you will figure out some ways of achieving the result that you hadnt realised previously. Many will likely be techniques already discovered and employed by others, but one or two may be viable options that are new.

There are always new woodworking tools and technologies coming out and it’s good to be aware of them, but don’t forget to look outside of the woodworking box. What tools are used in metalworking, upholstery, or ceramics that might be suitable or adaptable in whole or in concept to your application?

You may find something new that works well, or you may not find anything useful other than the new-found knowledge that you didn’t find anything worthwhile there. I believe that knowing even that is useful. But you can’t make new discoveries if you only follow.

More Quotes from Woodwork Magazine

I am continuing to work my way forwards through back issues of the since discontinued magazine Woodwork.

There is some truly fascinating content in these old issues, and one article that comes to mind is Georges Vaufrey’s Wizardly Woodshop. The article describes the processes used by the French company that specializes in producing high quality, precision woodturnings in large volumes (600,000 watch cases in two years, 50,000 pairs of ebony chopsticks a year, for example) with a +/-0.03 to +/-0.05 mm tolerance in hard woods.

The quality of work is partially the result of refined processes and jigs, but human skill is still a key asset.

The Vaufrey sanding system is essentially simple. But in practiced hands, it yields results that defy comparison.

Vaufrey’s sanding methods works beautifully because it puts the operator not the machine, in control of the process.

David and Abram Loft in Georges Vaufrey’s Wizardly Woodshop, issue #35, page 58, paragraphs 1-2

Here are some other interesting quotes I found. Read more on my page, Quotes from Woodwork.

Krenov had asked his students for complete emotional and personal involvement in every aspect of their work, in every detail.

Tom Mcfadden in Ejler Hjorth-Westh ,issue 33, page 37, paragraph 3

Furniture is nothing but practical sculpture.

Michael Cullen in Where Engineering, Art, and Woodworking; Meet: Michael Cullen by Tom Mcfadden, issue 35, page 34, paragraph 3

The reason so much old furniture has survived can be attributed to the fact that hide glue was the only glue available until recently. Furniture repair had to be done with it. Considerable damage has been done to old furniture since the introduction of modern glues, because repairmen can (and usually do) chose to use another glue.

Bob Flexner in Animal Hide Glue, issue 35, page 46, paragraph 8

Woodworking Digitally is More Convenient, But Not Better

What Do I Mean By “Woodworking Digitally”?

First, let me define digital. I don’t exclusively mean the use of measuring tools with LCD screens. I mean the use of any numbers at all, whether Metric or Imperial, decimals or fractions. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

digital: of, relating to, or using calculation by numerical methods or by discrete units

Pros and Cons to Using Numbers

Whether following plans or making your own, numbers play an important role in communicating sizes. Of course, communication is not a bad thing. However, the disadvantage of building using measurements is that sizes of the things we design and build tend to be based on convenient numbers (e.g. 42-1/2” or 850 mm) rather than sizes best suited to either the materials being used or the product being built.

If you are designing and building the item yourself, why not build without numbers? There is no rule that says a board 3/4” thick is the ideal balance between strength and weight, or that it a 1×4 is perfectly proportioned.

A Few Examples of Not Using Numbers

Numeric values are not required to build a good chair. A chair seat should be deep and wide enough to sit in comfortably, and at an appropriate height. Stack some toolboxes and plywood and try sitting on it. Add or remove layers and experiment with different heights. Do you want your feet to rest flat on the ground? The chair height you find comfortable likely isn’t an even number.

Move forward and sit on the edge of the seat. Move backward until you’re comfortable and make a mark where the back rest would be. Or start with a chair already made, and test it to see if you would change any proportions.

Already have your materials on hand? Maybe your project allows enough flexibility to use the wood to its fullest. Pick the best boards for the table top and arrange them for the best grain match. Then cut the table top as big as possible. Maybe it’ll be rectangular, or maybe it will be elliptical.

This table was made for a cherry crotch slab, and I made it as big as it allowed.

Building a cabinet for a specific spot and need it to hold dishes? Use a straight scrap of wood to make a story stick. Simply make marks on it indicating the length, width and depth of the cabinet. Line up your plates and bowls on the counter and figure out how many shelves you need, and how much headroom is required for each.

Flip your story stick over and make additional marks on the back for the location of each shelf. Then transfer these dimensions either to the material or directly to the saw.

Story sticks are also ideal for replicating something. You never have to ask – is this shelf 14-7/8 or 14-15/16 inches wide”, or “is 14-3/4 inches close enough”? Instead, it’s just a definitive line for the width of the shelf. Better yet, if the shelf is removable, you can use it to set up a stop block or rip fence to produce an identically sized part.

How often do you need to find the middle of the board? This is a task that I do very frequently, and there’s no reason to bring numbers into the mix. A common approach is to set a combination square so that when the stock is against one edge, the blade is locked near the middle of the board. Make a small mark along the end of the blade and flip the square so the stock rests against the opposite edge. The middle of the board is equidistant from those two marks, and you can readjust the square to be as precise as you need.

Never forget, invert, or mix up numbers again. Never make a rounding error and stop working with convenient dimensions. Work to a level of precision beyond what is practical with numbers. Save the digital for reading blogs.

Stacked Veneer Experiment with a Shocking Lesson

You’re probably aware that I like to incorporate a twist in my designs.

For some time, I’ve had this idea to laminate a stack of veneer in a twisted manner, so each subsequent piece of veneer is rotated just a degree or two. I suspected that, due to the difference in appearance between long grain and end grain, I would see a gradual lightness/darkness shift along the surface.

To test my theory and see what it would really look like, I cut cherry veneer into 2-3/4 inch squares with my bandsaw, because is was the quickest and easiest way I knew. I chose cherry because of the marked difference in darkness between its long grain and end grain, for better contrast.

I also grabbed two Quick Grip XL clamps, a bottle of Titebond Extend wood glue and prepared some small pieces of melamine as cauls to permit even distribution of clamping force and help ensure the faces stay flat.

Working efficiently and methodically, I spread glue on one face of a piece of veneer and placed another piece of veneer on it, rotated one veneer thickness counter-clockwise. I repeated the process for about a dozen pieces, then put the assembly between cauls and clamped them tightly. I glued together another dozen, then glued it to the previous dozen and put everything back in the clamps, continuing until I had two stacks each about 1″ high. The whole process took about an hour.

After a full day of drying, I unclamped the twisted veneer stacks and trimmed the uneven edges. The yield wasn’t particularly high, so I didn’t have many options for a finished product. I did have some pen kits on hand, so I decided to make a pen with the veneer. I cut one stack into 5/8″ squares, then glued them together, again rotated the thickness of one veneer.

I built a mini router jig to true up the pen blanks then drilled out the centres and mounted them on the lathe.

Once that dried, I made the pen. As I neared completion, I noticed some darker rings in the wood. They puzzled me, and I wondered if I had somehow put some veneer pieces in indirectly. Anyhow, I finished the pen and this is the result.

The twisted design I had attempted to produce was evident, and even more pronounced when I applied a thin coat of oil-based polyurethane to accentuate the long grain/end grain difference. But those rings!

After carrying the pen around for a few days, it struck me that the dark lines were caused when I put a dozen pieces of veneer in clamps to work on another stack, then glued them together! Somehow, this resulted in a darker veneer. How? Did the PVA glue absorb more into these pieces?

To avoid those dark laminations, I may have to glue all the veneers together in one shot before the glue starts to set. A glue with a longer open time would definitely be an asset. Or maybe a different glue, such as a plastic resin or epoxy would work. Or maybe if I just soaked the veneer in water first, the PVA glue would dry more slowly and encourage equal penetration.

If somebody can offer an insight as to why this happens, or if you have your own theory on how to prevent it, I’d love to hear it.

The Five Foot Shop

It’s been about a year-and-a-half since my shop size got cut in half. It presently occupies a one-car garage and I must say that I’m quite happy with the space. All my machines made the move, including my sliding table saw, 18″ bandsaw, jointer, planer, drill press and dust collector, but I did give up my tall joinery workbench and a lot of wood storage.

With this particular machine layout, I can work quite efficiently on material as long as five feet for any machine, and can handle longer material with handheld tools. All this without a mobile base under each machine.

In an article for Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine, I explore the concept of a shop optimized to handle materials up to five feet long and provide examples of how it works in practice. Read it in the annual Small Shops issue (June/July 2017).

You’ve probably noticed that things have been quieter around here than usual, but don’t worry – I’ve enlisted a new helper. Once he’s fully trained, things should be back up to speed. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Mounting Shelves and Pictures on Walls

Since moving into our new house last year, I have hung dozens of pictures and shelves. Okay, maybe not dozens, but very likely a dozen. Every time, the challenges are the same: what is the best location, where are the studs, and is it level?

While not immediately obvious, we always do reach a consensus of where best to hang the shelf or picture.

I am also fortunate to have a trusting family that doesn’t second-guess my ability to mount things level. However, I have certainly hung more than one where my “helper” is peering over my shoulder at the level and reminding me that it’s slightly slanted.

“Thanks, but why don’t you try levelling this a round clock?”

Not only is this not helpful, but it actually makes the process more aggravating. Sometimes I want to use the level in a very different way from which it was intended.

Besides that, I find playing “find the stud” is irritating enough (I’m pretty sure that whoever framed my house was an M.C. Escher fan). Instead of a stud finder, I need a pair of X-ray goggles. Or a treasure map.

While I’m still saving up for X-ray goggles and searching for that map, I have found a solution to make finding level easier, and I recently got to try it mounting one of my #WSBO wall shelves. Check it out: the First Guess Gravity Gauge.

Working Efficiently in a Small Shop

It can be a challenge to work efficiently in a small shop, but I have arranged the equipment in the space of a 1-car garage to allow me to build with components up to five feet in length without having to rearrange. In fact, the only machine that is on wheels is my 13″ thickness planer.

Most of the things I build involve components not longer than five feet, so work goes very smoothly. Some machines have the capacity to work with stock greater than five feet as they sit and I sometimes take advantage of that, and other times I use a hand-held tool instead.

I have written an article for Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine that will appear in a future issue describing my layout, the benefits, and why it works well for me. If you work in a shop with limited space, I think that you’ll find the article interesting.

This time-lapse video was recorded during the Wall Shelf Build-Off, and illustrates my workflow in the shop, and how I use the limited space that I have. Duration: (10:18)

For more pictures of my shop, check out this post: Welcome to the New Shop.

Results from the 2017 Wall Shelf Build-Off

Well, the ballots have been tallied and that means it’s time to award some prizes.  Although there were not as many entries as I had hoped for, the shelves built were well-constructed, innovative, and certainly well made considering the two day time limit. This made it tough for judges to decide which shelf was the best of each category. Several categories were decided by a single vote.

Sponsors and Prizes

First, I’d like to thank the generous sponsors who have provided the prizes. Please use the links below to learn more about the sponsors and their products.

Judges

I would also like to recognize the judges who took the time to carefully review the shelf submissions and cast their ballots.

Prizes

In addition to every prize awarded, each winner also will receive a 360 Woodworking Fanatic Membership!

Click on any image to read more about the shelf design.

By Category


The winner of this category is certainly no stranger to innovation when it comes to furniture. The award of Most Innovative Design goes to Judson Beaumont and Straight Line Designs.

For their efforts, Popular Woodworking will be sending them a copy of Contemporary Furniture: 17 Elegant Projects You Can Build.

11a


This very creative and original design, carefully crafted, earned Danny Siggers’ shelf the title of Best Concept.

His design has earned him a Kerfmaker from Bridge City Tool Works.

6b


With a very resourcefully-built and arguably wacky design, the shelf built by Brian Prusa edged out other shelves in the categories of Best Use of Materials and Most Off-the-Wall (Figuratively Speaking) Design.

His floating live-edge shelf earned him a copy of Build 25 Beautiful Boxes from Popular Woodworking and a Set of 4 Bench Dogs from Time Warp Tool Works.

brian-prusa


I don’t think it’s a surprise to any of us that the wild-looking wall shelf with lots of curves and bent laminations won the prize for the Most Ambitious Design. Eric and his daughter Hailey’s design also earned the title of Most Inspiring Design.

Coming your way will be a 2-year Print or Digital Subscription to Popular Woodworking, and a Woodpeckers Mini Square from Ultimate Tools.

4b


Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice Awards.

Ballots were scored as follows: 3 points for each #1 vote, 2 points for each #2 vote, and 1 point for each #3 vote. With 171 ballots cast, the maximum number of points that a shelf could score was 513.

Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice #3 goes to Danny Siggers, whose shelf got 21.5% of possible points. The prize for this category is a 1-year Digital Subscription to Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine.

danny-siggers


Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice #2 goes to David Barlow’s shelf with 30% of possible points.
He will receive a copy of Vic Tesolin’s book, The Minimalist Woodworker: Essential Tools and Small Shop Ideas for Building with Less.

david-barlow


Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice #1 is awarded to Eric and Hailey Zuehlk, whose shelf attracted 38% of possible points  and earned them a signed copy of Ron Hock’s book, The Perfect Edge.

eric-hailey-zuehlk


There were three individuals who accurately predicted the top three Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice. We broke the tie, and the award of a 1-year Digital Subscription to Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine goes to Eric Zuehlk’s brother, Brian. Clearly that family has good taste!

Judges’ Top Picks

Coming in Judges’ Honourable Mention, with 13% of the points from the judges is Matt Kummell’s shelf with impressive angled joinery and eye-catching metal inlay.

Time Warp Tool Works will send him a set of 4 Bench Dogs for a job well done.

matt-kummell


Receiving 16% of points from judges, the Judges’ Runner Up is…me and my “Hashtag” shelf for displaying carved letter blocks.

I will be declining the prize of a Kerfmaker from Bridge City Tool Works, since I already own one.

chris-wong


And, taking the Judges’ Top Shelf award with 24% of all awarded points by judges is that wicked design by the Zuehlks.

Well done – Green Buddy Distributors will be sending you a Grex AOS368 Angle Random Orbital Sander.

eric-hailey-zuehlk2


Remember that you can view all the Wall Shelves built during the #WSBO two day build on this page. Thanks to everybody who participated and voted. See you next time!

Subscribe to my blog using the form at the bottom of the page to receive updates from me.

New Prize Category: Most Accurate Voter

With a last-minute prize donation from Green Buddy Distributors (distributors of Grex Tools in Canada), there is now one more prize than there are categories. So I’m going to create one new category and shuffle the prizes.

The exciting part is that EVERYBODY is eligible to win!

grex-aos368The winner of this category will be whoever most accurately picks the top Flair Woodwork’s Reader’s Choice Wall Shelves. In the event of a tie, I will contact the voters and we will break the tie.

Have you voted yet? You have until the end of this weekend to cast your vote! Are we having fun yet?