My Tripot: Final Cleanup

Fascinated with the form of the tripot, and interested to see what was involved in making one, I started my own. I couldn’t think of a better way to understand and appreciate it than to make one myself.

In my first two articles about making my tripot, I showed how I shaped most of the interior and exterior. For the remainder of the shaping, there were no shortcuts – what was required was manual carving and sanding.

I removed the tripot from the lathe, then I used carving tools to remove as much extraneous material as I could between the bases of the three pots. I used only my fingertips as a guide to tell me where material still needs to be removed, since they were not only the most convenient measuring tools, but of the exact accuracy required.

My smallest veining gouge, a #11/1 (severity of sweep and width, in millimeters) was useful in helping define the separation between the two pots, and the joint was further refined with skew chisels which were better able to create a precise corner.

Because the center point where the three pots meet is recessed when viewed from the bottom, this means that to carve into this area is in fact against the grain. Of course, this makes it difficult to make clean and controlled cuts. My solution to this problem was to use micro scorps to shape this area. The scorps can cut on the draw stroke, so I was able to do much of the carving in the recess with the grain.

To blend the surfaces, I continued the shaping process with abrasives, starting at 80-grit and progressing through 180. Although hand sanding may be tedious it is a vital part of the process in creating a fine product and I actually find it relaxing and meditative.

At this stage, when it seemed like I was ready for finishing, I stopped and examined the tripot from all angles under my task light. I checked all surfaces again with my fingertips for any flat spots, high points, or defects.

I went back and fixed the deficiencies that I found. I tested a finish on a scrap of the same material, then applied it to the tripot using a foam brush, and rags to wipe off the excess.

My Tripot: Turning the Base

Fascinated with the form of the tripot, and interested to see what was involved in making one, I have started my own. I couldn’t think of a better way to understand and appreciate it than to make one myself.

In my first article about making my tripot, I showed how I shaped most of the exterior using a router and lathe together. Since then, I hollowed out each vessel starting with a drill bit to establish the depth of each pot, then using turning tools to reduce the wall thickness and shape the interior. For each pot, I had to mount the pot being worked on centred on the lathe axis, then mount counterbalances to allow the lathe to run without excessive vibration.

To accomplish this, I attached a disc of 1/2″ plywood between the face plate and tripot to which I strategically screwed scrap wood opposite to the bulk of the off-axis tripot mass. Pieces of the first tripot attempt worked perfectly.

After drilling out the centre with a drill bit mounted in the tailstock, I used a bowl gouge to hollow the vessel. A purpose-built hollowing tool would have allowed me more freedom in design (for example, creating more of a vase shape and less of a bowl shape) and provided greater control and safety, but since I don’t own such a tool and wasn’t prepared to purchase one, I made do. My confidence with the bowl gouge improved substantially with these intimidating cuts – many of which were well beyond the tool rest in tight quarters.

After hollowing each pot, I sanded the inside to completion, working through grits from 80 to 220. I found that Mirka Abranet cut more quickly than any of the abrasive papers I tried. Sanding the inside of small pots is not fun, and I wanted to finish and move on as quickly as possible. To assist in sanding, I improvised a tool to sand the inside bottoms by applying adhesive-backed hook strips to a 1/2″ steel drill rod.

To this tool, I attached the loop-backed strips of Abranet and chucked it in a heavy-duty drill for power sanding and ran the drill clockwise while the lathe turned the pot counter-clockwise.

While it might be safe and acceptable to hold sandpaper in your hand to sand the inside of a larger bowl, the small scale of this vessel, coupled with the fact that there are several other larger pots whirling around it, meant that I didn’t want my hands anywhere near the workpiece. So I chucked up a sleeveless sanding drum in my drill and fitted it with a piece of Abranet. I intentionally left it proud of the drum’s end to help sand the transition from side wall to bottom.

Again, I ran the lathe and drill in opposite directions This made for an efficient and satisfying sanding experience.

After all three pots were hollowed and sanded, I took the tripot off the lathe and cut off the waste at the base using the bandsaw.

I turned a tenon on a piece of clear pine to exactly fit the opening of the largest vessel and used this jam chuck to mount the tripot on the lathe facing the opposite direction to shape the base.

I tried using a pointed live centre before switching to a cup centre which allowed me to adjust the positioning of the bottom of the pot to ensure the pot was running fairly true.

I used a bowl gouge to turn the bottom round as far as I could without removing too much material from the other two pots.

This video (7:47) shows how the base was turned.

Then I created another jam chuck for the next tripot vessel and repeated the process, before sanding and carving to refine the shape. That’ll be the focus of the next segment on making my tripot.

My Tripot: Shaping the Exterior

Fascinated with the form of the tripot, and interested to see what was involved in making one, I have started my own. I couldn’t think of a better way to understand and appreciate it than to make one myself.

Loosely following an article in Woodwork by Hugh McKay on his process of making a pentapot (five vessels in one), I began work on my own.

First, I played around with a sheet of paper and a compass to lay out the overall sizes of the three vessels for my tripot. I wanted their diameters to be significantly different for interest. Since most of the shaping is done on the lathe, I knew that I needed the other two pots to clear the lathe bed when any one was mounted on centres. That limited the overall size of the piece I could make. I figured that it was also important that the three pots meet in the middle, and for the walls to not overlap so much that, when hollowing them out, the cavities would meet.

Once I had a layout that met my criteria, I transferred it to a piece of 1/4” MDF which became my template. I’m not sure this was really necessary, but it was one of the steps McKay used in the creation of his pots (the template did help me when I needed to start again… more on that later).

I chose a chunk of black locust about 8” thick. At the bandsaw, I squared up the blank, ensuring both ends were parallel to each other. I carefully positioned my template on the end grain, avoiding any checks, bark, or knots that could have compromised the strength of the tripot.  With a short screw in the centre of each circle representing a pot, I fastened the template to the black locust. Carefully, I cut to the lines using my bandsaw.

Next, I determined how tall to make each pot. I had to remember to accommodate for some chucking wastage at one end, where the screws would go in to hold the face plate. Again, following the recommendation of McKay, I used a drill press and forstner bit to remove the bulk of the waste. Boring into the end grain of a hard wood was not quick, and the results were not especially clean, with stalagmites and brad point divots abounding. I quickly cleaned up the resulting surface with a hand saw and chisels.

To profile the exterior, the pot could not be simply spun on the lathe and a gouge be presented to the work unless you were impossibly good at quickly applying and removing the tool as the other two vessels off-axis came around at you. Instead, shaping is done with a router with the work mounted on an unplugged lathe. This required some jigging.

I created a plywood platform that got mounted to the lathe bed. For my smallest router, which I had chosen to use for the shaping, I built a cradle to hold it securely in line with the lathe’s axis when resting on the platform. Lastly, I cut a template for the router to follow.

For a clean cut, ease of control, and long reach, I chose to mount a 1/4” up-spiral solid carbide router bit in the trim router. With a pot screwed to a faceplate and mounted on the lathe, I used the router to estimate where to position the template to remove the minimum amount of material, while creating a fully shaped vessel without flat spots. I clamped the template with a pair of clamps and got ready to start routing.

My left hand was on the wheel controlling the rotation of the lathe, and my right hand moved the router on the platform. Taking shallow bites, I slowly worked my way around the pot as far as I could. It took patience and focus to take only small bites, and to keep the router firmly on the platform. Several times, the router caught, tipped forward, and ended up carving deep holes in the side of the pot, requiring me to re-adjust the template to remove the divots. In the end, I ended up deciding that there was not going to be enough material left to make it worth continuing.

I started again. This is where that template came in handy. I simply screwed it to a new piece of locust and cut it out again at the bandsaw. After determining the height of the pots, I cut across the tops of the pots with a coarse handsaw, then split away the waste with a chisel and mallet. This was much quicker and cleaner than using a forstner bit.

At the lathe, I took the shaping process much more cautiously. Analyzing my previous failure, I realized that I would have a better chance of success if I: clamped the router to the platform to avoid tipping; didn’t use a spiral bit to prevent the bit from wanting to pull itself into the work; used a router bit with a short cutting length and a bearing to keep the cutting part from engaging with the other two vessels; and screwed the template securely to the platform. I took all these precautions for the second attempt.

In this video, I describe my setup, and demonstrate the shaping method.

My process worked well, and the extra precautions I took were worth the effort.

After routing all three pots as much as I could, there were a few spots that the router couldn’t access. I cleaned those up with skew chisels and carving gouges.

Next up: hollowing!

Knotty Pine

This question kept me awake in the wee hours one morning:

What would it look like if I carved a knot in a piece of wood?

I lay in bed trying to visualize it, and figure out how best to attempt it… Start by finding a fairly thick piece of rope, tie a knot, use it to layout the carving, rough-out the carving with a saw, then finish carving with a knife and/or gouges.

Tracing the imaginary path of the rope with my index finger while laying on my back, I rehearsed the carving over and over, over and over.

At the first semi-reasonable hour, I got out of bed and went down to the shop to find an appropriate piece of wood to carve. I found a clear piece of Austrian pine, salvaged from a piece of 6×8 dunnage in a container of Felder machines.

I tied a knot in a short length of 3/8” rope and used a pen to roughly indicate the path of the rope on each of the four faces of the blank.

Using a jigsaw and long blade, I cut to my layout lines. Then I completed the shaping with my folding carving knife.

And that is how you turn a clear piece of pine into a piece of knotty pine.

knotty pine

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.

Butternut & Ash Side Table

I recently completed this small side table and it has already become a much-appreciated addition to the home. With a table top about 10″ x 18″, it has proven itself to be compact yet stable, and suitably sized to hold a book, or a dinner plate and drinking glass.

 

ash-butternut-side-table-low

Followers of my blog may recognize the top as a slice from the same piece of ash that was used in the doors of Insanity 2.

ash-butternut-side-table-high

The form took a while to realize, and I had fun mixing straight lines and convex shapes.

The butternut base is joined with bridle and lap joints, and the teardrop ash top is joined with a pair of floating tenons and a little glue.

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

Cribbage Board 18, and a Pricing Structure

I recently completed this cribbage board in apple for a customer who also has one of my tables.

Like many others, this one was a gift. Interestingly enough, some customers have told me that they don’t play crib, but just like the look of them.

Cribbage Board 18 Right

Cribbage Board 18 Top

Pricing Structure

Up until now, I have only been making boards with three tracks since they offer the most flexibility (they can accommodate one, two, three or four players).

I am now offering cribbage boards with one, two or three tracks.

Prices for live edge cribbage boards are as follows, and all cribbage boards include the required number of metal scoring pegs.

  • $90 – 1 track without scoreboard
  • $95 – 1 track with scoreboard
  • $120 – 2 tracks without scoreboard
  • $130 – 2 tracks with scoreboard
  • $155 – 3 tracks without scoreboard
  • $170 – 3 tracks with scoreboard

Contact me if you would like to order a custom-made cribbage board.

Shipping within North America is usually around $25. Prices are current as of this posting and are subject to change.

Shop Stools/Bar Stools

The kitchen island in my new house was calling for a pair of bar stools. My shop stool that I completed in the Shop Stool Build-Off found its way there during the move, and with the chaos reigning in my shop, I was happy to let it live there.

Shop Stool

My shop stool

A second stool was in order, and it looked like it would be a while still before the shop is in any sort of shape to work.

Fortunately, I recalled that, a little while after the Shop Stool Build-Off, I had tried again to make the crossed-leg stool which I had originally attempted but due to a miscalculation, wasn’t able to pull off in time.

Shop Stool Build-Off Design

Attempt #2 was already together, but needed some attention. The joints didn’t fit quite as well as I wanted and hadn’t been glued. The seat needed to be cut to shape, and the legs needed some finishing touches.

My goal was to make it into a usable stool – I had more important things to do and didn’t want to spend the time required to bring this stool up to the level of “fine furniture”.

First, I glued the legs into the seat. To avoid having to drive them apart and back together (they were a tight friction fit), I applied Veritas’ Chair Doctor Glue to the joint’s seams and let the watery glue seep into the joint. When the glue was dry, I cut the seat round with my jigsaw.

Shop Stools High

Although the stool was usable at this point, I couldn’t resist taking it further. I tilted my jigsaw (the whole saw, not just the base plate) and trimmed the edge of the seat to line up with the angled legs, gradually bringing the jigsaw back to plumb so the edge returned to square. I did this in both directions – clockwise and counter clock-wise at each leg, so the seat’s edge effectively twists and untwists as it goes around. I faired the edge of the stool with my random orbit sander, starting with 24-grit, and progressed up to 120-grit.

Shop Stools Low

Finally, I scooped out the seat with a carving gouge, sanded the surface smooth and even, and softened the edges.

Shop Stools Mid

So much for a “basic” stool – I just couldn’t resist adding a few extra touches. Know what I mean?

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