The Maker, the Buyer, and the User

As a creator (in my case, of designs, artwork, furniture and writing primarily), it is necessary to understand to whom one is accountable.

The maker doesn’t want it, the buyer doesn’t use it, and the user doesn’t know they’re using it. What is the object?

This classic riddle illustrates the difference between three types of people: makers, buyers, and users.

If you are a professional, the number one person you must satisfy is the buyer. It is their needs that you are responsible for fulfilling. Whether they have hired you, your company or your boss’ company is irrelevant. If you are unable to provide a product or service that is of value to them, you will likely find yourself out of work rather quickly.

If you create for yourself, you are the maker, the buyer and the user. You are accountable to yourself. What you do and what you make needs to satisfy your own needs before anybody else’s.

This means that you don’t have to, and should not, do things in a way that is not aligned with your way of working. This doesn’t mean that you should not try new things or listen to other people, rather you should not do things just because somebody thinks you ought to – especially if they are not invested in your work.

When you free yourself from the expectations of the world, I trust that you will find the creative process easier, more enjoyable, and more rewarding.

Be bold. Challenge yourself. Learn.

Sketching to Develop Wall Shelf Ideas

With two weeks before the Wall Shelf Build-Off, I spent some time this afternoon working on design ideas. I filled three pages of sketches with a variety of designs.

When sketching, I like to use pen and don’t spend more than half a minute on each.

I use the sketches to help me figure out what I like and what I don’t like. Sometimes I will sketch different variations of details, like square and rounded corners, right over each other.

If a detail is difficult to draw, or is an important part of the design, I may add an arrow and label. I may draw in the grain if it is part of the design, but I usually focus on basic concepts and form.

Feel free to use these ideas for your Wall Shelf Build-Off design.

I’m always interested in your feedback, but particularly interested in your thoughts on these sketches. Do any of the ideas stand out to you?

If you need some more inspiration, check out my ever-growing Pinterest board of #WSBO inspiration.

And there’s still time to register! #WSBO is January 28-29.

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Elm – Pleasant to Work and Full of Character

The latest addition to my catalog of air-dried slabs for sale is Elm (Ulmus americana)

A medium-density wood with pale sapwood and warm brown heartwood, elm often exhibits a coarser grain pattern.

Most elm trees do not grow very large and consequently it is rare to find elm mature enough to exhibit a substantial amount of darker heartwood. Pockets of in-grown bark is typical of this species, lending to the unique look of elm.

Elm works well, and common uses include furniture, boxes and veneer.

It was milled on one of the hottest days in 2013.

You may remember this table top that I made from one slab three years ago.

A pair of dovetail keys reinforced a separation in the slab, and epoxy was used to fill in voids.

See my catalog of air-dried wood slabs for sale here.

Butternut – it Carves like Butter with a Hot Knife

The latest addition to my catalog of air-dried slabs for sale is butternut (Juglans cinerea). A relative to the highly sought-after black walnut, butternut shares the same grain patterns but the colour is lighter – similar to the shades of bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).

Butternut is also lighter in weight and softer than black walnut, making it an ideal wood for working with hand tools and is popular for carvings. Other common uses include furniture and boxes. It is an ideal material to use for a sculpted/carved panel, contrasting with a comparatively simple frame. It is also ideal for chair seats for the same reasons pine is the traditional seat material in a windsor chair.

It works well with both hand and power tools and glues and finishes well. Butternut is a great wood to work with – especially for beginners.

The seat of my workshop stool is made of butternut. The legs are bigleaf maple.

Butternut Stool Seat

I made the structural members and panel of this headboard out of butternut, and finished it with orange shellac.

Construction of the Butternut Headboard

See my catalog of air-dried wood slabs for sale here.

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

“Sharpening” Carbide Insert Cutter Heads

It has been a long time since I installed Byrd Tool’s Shelix carbide cutter heads in my Delta DJ-20 8″ jointer (May 2009) and DeWalt DW735 13″ planer (June 2012). The videos showing the installation of the cutter head in my planer have been viewed almost 75,000 times!

Although the machines still produced tearout-free cuts, they did leave ridges behind and I suspected that changing to fresh edges would lower the noise level and reduce the strain on the motors. I had not rotated the cutters until now.

Byrd Shelix Cutter Head Basics

The machined cutter head had tapped holes to received machine screws, each of which locked down one squarish carbide cutter. A registration ledge machined into the head automatically aligned the cutters, so “sharpening” the head was as simple as loosening the screws, rotating the cutters 90 degrees, and retightening the screws.

Each cutter was marked in the corner, and all were positioned the same way out of the factory so it was easy to tell which cutters I had rotated.

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Rotating the Cutters

The screws securing the cutters on my thickness planer required almost as much force to loosen as I could apply with the screwdriver and Torx bit supplied by Bird. A few were looser than others, so were easy to remove.

DeWalt DW735 Shelix

When I rotated the cutters of my jointer, and I found that the machine screws there were considerably tighter.  I was able to loosen some using all of my strength on the screwdriver, but resorted to using a Torx bit on the end of a 1/4″ ratchet to break them loose. It was nice to have two Torx driver bits available (one came with each cutter head) so that I could have one on each tool to expedite the process.

Delta DJ 20 Shelix

In order to rotate each cutter, I found that all I needed to do was back off the screw three revolutions. In a couple of instances, I found that a bit of debris got lodged between the cutter and the registration ledge, so I actually needed to remove the screw and clean the cutter.

One of the great features of this type of cutter head was that the cutters are self-indexing, which eliminates the tedious task of setting cutter heights with measuring tools. However, the cutters did need to be reasonably close to their final positioning to self-align. If not close enough, the cutter got hung up on the registration ledge and the screw wasn’t able to pull it into place. Continuing to tighten the screw could have broken the fragile carbide cutter.

Once I saw the cutter drop into place, I tightened the screw as tight as my grip on the screwdriver allowed. Then it was onto the next cutter. I rotated the cutters one row at a time.

It took 16 minutes to rotate the 40 cutters of my 13″ planer (4 rows of 10), and 20 minutes to rotate the 40 cutters of my 8″ jointer (5 rows of 8).

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