Stool with Sculpted Seat

This project actually started over eight years ago, but in a very different form.

While down in California working a trade show for Lee Valley, the crew and I made a detour to Sam Maloof’s house in Alta Loma. We got a very inspirational tour of the very unique house which he had built for himself and left me very inspired to make a sculpted chair.

I bought a copy of Sam Maloof, Woodworker which Sam signed for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him.

Sam Maloof Autograph

Back home, I started by making a maple seat. I beveled the edges of four boards and glued them together to create a blank curved to the approximate shape of the seat, then sculpted it with my Arbortech carbide wheel on a grinder, and sanders. That’s as far as the chair progressed until I rediscovered it when I was cleaning out my old workshop earlier this year.

To turn the chair seat into a stool seat, I needed to shape it further. The chair required square edges to join into the frame members, but the stool seat was designed to be supported differently.

Curved workpieces have always been challenging to hold securely while working them, but that task was greatly simplified by using the Festool VacSys Vacuum Clamp at my workplace, Ultimate Tools.

Stool Seat on Vacuum Clamp

To make the seat look less bulky, I wanted to thin out the seat towards the edges. I started with a jigsaw, tilted at a 45 degree angle, followed by sanders.

Bevelling with Jigsaw

I designed a simple base and selected a suitably-sized board of Gary oak that I had bought years ago. I milled it into square sections and cut them to length to make three legs and two stretchers. I cut the angled dadoes by hand, and cut the mating open mortises with my table saw.

Stool Bridle Joinery

With carving gouges, I shaped round tenons on the tops of the three legs. I paused to admire the polished surface on the tenon shoulder left by my sharp tools. Then I assembled the base to locate where mating holes needed to be drilled in the underside of the seat.

Tenon

It have always found it satisfying to push together a well-fit joint. Or four. Or seven. It was a little nerve-wracking pounding the leg tenons into the holes in the seat, wondering if anything would crack. Nothing did.

Bridle Joints

I used the VacSys to hold the stool for a final sanding before applying a couple of coats of oil-based polyurethane.

Stool and Vacuum

And here’s the finished result.

Sculpted Seat Stool Front Right Sulpted Stool Stool Back Left

Simpler Edge Joints

Quite often, I need a wider board than what I have available. Usually, that means gluing up two or more boards edge to edge.

Since, in this situation, I am usually making a highly visible part such as a table top or cabinet side, I am very careful to match not only the grain pattern of the neighbouring boards, but the exact colour shading as well.

The surface of this box is comprised of between 8 and 20 strips edge-glued together. I honestly don’t remember how many strips were used, and they were assembled in such a way that the seams aren’t distinguishable.

It’s a very time consuming process, as I need to flip, rotate, slide and shuffle the boards every possible way to get the best match possible. In some cases, I need to trim boards narrower or taper them to get a better match.

Jigsaw Puzzle Table1

With two boards, it’s not too slow of a process (there are only 16 different ways to match them if you don’t count sliding), but each additional board adds more combinations.

Once I have the boards arranged best, I draw a cabinetmaker’s triangle across them to clearly indicate the optimum alignment. Then I joint the edges, testing the fit as I go, until I have a light-tight joint ready for glue-up.

While I haven’t actually timed these processes, it seems as if I spend more time preparing the joint as I do arranging boards. This means that putting together a 5-piece table top can take upwards of 3 hours.

Some woodworkers simply accept that fine work takes time, and are content to keep doing things the same way. I, on the other hand, am always looking for better and more efficient ways to get work done. It came to me that, with the right tools, I could drastically reduce the amount of time required to prepare edges for gluing.

This video walks you through my thought process, the tools and techniques I use, and why they work. Duration: 8:02

21st Century Writing Desk, Complete

A textured top might at first seem the wrong choice for a writing desk, but with computers leading the writing world nowadays we think it’s a great idea.

– Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine

I completed the base for the 21st Century Writing Desk, to go with the top that I carved in November.

21st Century Writing Desk Top

The base had to be visually lightweight to avoid overwhelming the thin top. I achieved this by leaving space below the top and tapering the legs.

To allow ample space for knees, I opted to omit the front apron. I made up for the missing apron by using an H-shaped stretcher assembly positioned low on the legs.

21st Century Writing Desk

Turned around, the desk can be used as a side table as well. The long stretcher provides some more visual strength.

21st Century Writing Desk Back

I wanted to make the legs flow into the stretchers so I created curved transitions at the joints. To do this easily, I developed a process involving two common router bits and a couple simple shims. (Read about this process in the April/May 2016 issue of Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.)

21st Century Writing Desk Base

3-Month Review

I am quite happy with the desk after a few months of use. It is plenty stable and the top is big enough for my laptop computer, some wrist support, and not much else. Therefore, it does not attract the clutter with which desks are often plagued. It is also incredibly light, which makes it enjoyable (not an exaggeration) to move around from room to room.

When I work at it, I sit in my 3-Week Chair, Prototype 4 (which I badly want to revisit and further develop).

Bonus

Read the article from the March/April issue of Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement by clicking the following image.

2016_04-05_21st-century-writing-desk

Cut Perfect Mitre Joints

Early on, I regarded mitre joints as difficult and finicky, so I often used other joinery that I could execute more easily (even dovetails) instead. But once I figured out a good process for making mitre joints, I found them to be no more difficult than other joinery, and certainly quicker than dovetails!

My latest article for the Craftsy blog explains the steps that I take to cut perfect mitre joints, as well as things to watch for that can cause you problems.

Read Cut Perfect Miter Joints in 3 Steps on the Craftsy blog.

Craftsy - Cut Perfect Mitre Joints

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!

One-Step Joinery

No matter how much time I have, there never seems to be enough. For that reason, I make many of my decisions based on efficiency. My decision to use a hand tool or a power tool for a given task is dependent on what I feel is more efficient for the task at hand.

In my effort to be more efficient, I also examine the processes that I’ve learned along the way and assess whether or not steps can be eliminated to save time. I encourage you to do the same, and if you think of any shortcuts, please share them here in the comments section.

In this video (duration: 10:41), I talk more about my thought process and explain my one-step joinery procedure which saves a lot of unnecessary time laying out, cutting, and fitting dovetail joints.

Single-Slab Cherry Coffee Table, Part I

This weekend, I am demonstrating Festool power tools at Lee Valley Tools Ltd. in Coquitlam. To generate interest and demonstrate what can be done with the tools, I am turning this seven-foot-long slab of cherry into a coffee table.

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By the end of Thursday, I had made some good progress. To make the legs, I used the TS75 track saw to cut the ends of the slab from table top and bevel the ends at 45 degrees.

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I used the DF700 Domino XL to cut mortises in the bevelled ends of one joint and inserted 14mm Domino tenons to provide strength and alignment.

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On Friday, I cut the joints for the other two legs. I glued them before lunch, then did some careful layout to determine how to cut the legs so the table sat flat. I performed the cuts with the TS75 track saw in a somewhat dramatic fashion.

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After that, I removed the chainsaw marks from the outside surfaces of the legs. I was able to power through this task quickly with 80-grit Rubin 2 abrasive paper on the mighty RO150 Rotex sander.

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At the end of day two, the table stood on its own (and I could stand – and jump – on it).

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So far, this project has been a good test of what the Festool equipment can do and it has attracted a lot of attention from customers, whether they were woodworkers or not. Many wanted to see it finished and asked if the table would be on display upon completion (the answer was, yes).

Tomorrow, I will continue work by surfacing the top. I may also inset some dovetail keys in the top, and perhaps down one leg to visually reinforce the split.

Crossing Joint as Door Joinery

I developed the crossing joint as a possible solution to how conventional joinery results in a disruption of grain along the rails and/or stiles of a frame and panel door.

Cabinet Doors Intersecting

I cut one sample joint, then did some photo manipulation to see how it would look in a similar situation.

First, I looked at the fingers in a horizontal orientation.

Crossing Joint Horizontal

Then I tried the fingers in a vertical orientation.

Crossing Joint Vertical

I liked this second orientation because I felt the inside finger of the stile that extended to cover the end of the rail provided the mental idea of an border and finished off the edge of the door. I suspected that this was because most doors opened horizontally – if this joinery was used where doors opened vertically (e.g. lifted upward), the first orientation might have been preferable.

What do you think?

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Original Joinery – Crossing Joint

This joint was inspired by the realization that joinery used in frame and panel doors always results in a visual discontinuation of the vertical component, whereas the horizontal component usually carries through to an adjacent component.

Using mortise and tenon, bridle, or cope and stick joinery resulted in one member (usually the stile – the vertical member) cutting off the rail – the horizontal member.

Cabinet Doors Intersecting

Mitre joints didn’t harshly interrupt the visual flow, but made the eye turn the corner and follow the door frame.

I wondered if it was possible to make a joint so that both components visually continued through the joint. I started sketching.

This was the first joint that I made, based on that idea. I called it a crossing joint.

Crossing Joint Crossing Joint Scale There was a lot of glue surface, but much of it was long grain to end grain which does not have as much strength when glued together as do two long grain surfaces.

Gluing Crossing Joint

Beware of Step 27

I just completed a new cribbage board, but this one was made much differently from the others. I scaled up the board, and added a base to transform it into a table.

Cribbage Table 1

I had some fun with the base. For the stretcher, I used the bandsaw to cut three slits of graduated lengths in one end of the stretcher to spread it.

Stretcher Spread

Then, I cut corresponding mortises in the legs and drove the joint together. Yes, it was tricky!

Stretcher Fitted

For the cribbage board top, I bored the 3/8″ holes freehand, using a plunge router. The bit grabbed in one hole, causing a large jagged, spiral hole as I tried to recover.

Step 27

After some deliberation, I decided to fill the hole with clear resin and rebore the hole.

Cribbage Table 6

If you’re in playing in the right-hand track, beware of step 27!

Cribbage Table 4

Find more photos and details of this cribbage table on the Beware of Step 27 product page.

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