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.

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.

How to Make Furniture that Sells

When I had the chance to make a living as a furniture maker, it was a dream come true. However, I soon realized that my chosen path was a very difficult one and found that I needed to adapt my designs to appeal to consumers.

In this video, I share some of my best tips for making furniture that, in my experience, people really like and are willing to buy. (Duration – 12:09)

Here is a link to the two templates I use. You can download them for free for your own personal use here. Download templates.

 

Push to Open

This cabinet is called Push to Open.  It was started with the idea to make a fine cabinet – something I haven’t done since 2010.

I had a few pieces of figured cherry left over from another project and I let their sizes provide an indication of the size of the cabinet.

The front panel was bookmatched for a symmetrical pattern. I chose straight-grained material for the rails and stiles and joined them with tiny floating tenons.

Push to Open Front

At some point in time while working on the cabinet, I got the idea to make the cabinet so that instead of pulling the door to open it, it had to be pushed. To achieve this, I built the cabinet a little narrower than the door. When I installed the door, I made it overhang the right side, beyond the pivot point of the hinge. Pushing on the right edge of the door swung it open.

Push to Open High

Inside the cabinet, I built some dividers using three thin pieces of cherry cross-lapped together. They were friction fit and required no glue for their assembly or installation in the cabinet.

Push to Open, OpenI also included a small drawer in the bottom of the cabinet. I made a small “drawer pull” and chamfered the edges. But true to the name and nature of Push to Open, you couldn’t open the drawer by pulling. Instead, the “drawer pull” was actually a button that, when pushed, prodded the drawer forwards.

Note the wavy, waterfall grain visible on the edge of the cabinet side, which is indicative of the figure on the adjacent face.

Push to Open Drawer, Closed

Here is what the drawer looked like, opened.

Push to Open Drawer, Open

This video shows the operation of Push to Open. (Duration – 0:46)

Check out the product page for more information on the cabinet, including dimensions and purchase details.

Links:

My New Shop Stool

I am working on assembling an elite group of judges for the Shop Stool Build-Off. There are many categories and lots of prizes so everybody has a fair chance of winning something.

For a chance of winning a prize, make sure you submit your stool by the end of Tuesday, January 28.  Here is my entry, as per the submission guidelines:


My stool is 24-1/2″ high. The seat is 13″ diameter and the legs are splayed, so the footprint is 16″.

I used Western maple for the legs and butternut for the seat.

The build was documented here: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/flairwoodworks.

I had originally intended to angle the legs so they crossed in the middle (Plan B), but I didn’t cut them at the right angle, so the footprint ended up being too small. I ended up cutting off the angled tops and using straight legs instead – my Plan A.5, as I called it.

I used dado and rabbet joinery to connect the legs to the seat, which I shaped into a concave shape with a carving gouge. I left the texture of the carving gouge on the surface for decoration. It does not detract from the comfort. The stool is very solid and comfortable. Although I was initially disappointed that my crossed-leg design didn’t work out this time, I am very happy with the result.

Shop StoolShop Stool Seat Detail

This is For Love

I spent the holidays with my family and friends, completely away from the shop. It was a really nice break and quite refreshing from the busy pace that two businesses and too-many-side-projects-to-count guarantees. Being around others reminded me that there are lots of ways to make a living, many of which require much less effort and pay better. Even so, I am happy with what I am doing and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Here’s some of the notable things that are keeping me busy.

Chair with a Twist

This design is inspired by the twisted rear leg that I threw in when I built Reaper. This build, which is currently underway, is driven by a call for submissions by the Port Moody Art Gallery with a deadline of Monday, January 6. I have three days of work into the chair so far.

You can follow along with my live builds via Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook.

Chair with a Twist DryFit

Discovery: Air at Seymour Art Gallery

Sunday, I am off to the Seymour Art Gallery in North Vancouver to deliver Wireframe Cabinet for their Discovery: Air exhibit, which runs from January 8 to February 1. The opening reception is Sunday, January 12 at 2pm.

Shop Stool Build-Off

While the build-off isn’t until January 25 and I already have my design worked out in my head, I still have my hands full promoting and organizing the event. Currently, I am working on securing prize sponsors for participants. Don’t forget to register!

Complicated Stool

If you need some help with or inspiration for your stool design, check out Jeremy’s Stool Design Guide listed in the links section at the bottom of this article.

Lee Valley Tools Seminars, Special Events, and More

In addition to Fridays on which I usually work at the front counter at Lee Valley Tools Coquitlam, I am also teaching three seminars this month and am scheduled to do an in-store demonstration mid-month. The three seminars are:

  1. Fundamentals of Hand Planes;
  2. Fundamentals of Hand Tool Joinery; and
  3. Fundamentals of Stringing and Inlay.

Port Moody Artist Groups

I am part of two projects featuring Port Moody artists.

One project, Hands That Shape Our Community by Inlet Artists is rolling along nicely and preparing for its first exhibit.

Hands That Shape Our Community

Kaboom! The Port Moody Art Explosion is still in the planning stage and we meet on a weekly basis.

#Woodchat on Air

Wednesdays, between 7 and 8pm, Matt Gradwohl, Scott Meek and I, can be found in front of a web cam and microphone hosting a live woodworking show about design and whatever else we (or you) want to discuss.

Scott and Jimmy

And There’s More!

While the items above are enough to keep me busy, there are many more day-to-day things that compete for my time. There are many other projects pending in my shop and designs to be developed, moulding planes to be built for Time Warp Tool Works, woodworkers who want private lessons, machines that need maintenance, and magazine and blog articles to write.

Oh, and I can’t forget spending time with my family and my amazing girlfriend, Jessica. After all, they are the ones who have to put up with me and my busy schedule. They also provide me with much-needed breaks from my work.

The title of this post was borrowed from this song by Nicole Atkins. 

Links:

Wireframe Cabinet

Wireframe Cabinet

Ever since I started Insanity 2, I’ve been thinking about cabinets. It seemed to me that cabinets meant for displaying things more often than not accumulated so many things that they ended up looking messy.

I realized that the problem was that too much horizontal surface was available. My solution was to provide only enough space for one item. I sketched a few designs before I figured out that I could make the cabinet from a single line.

I first made a model, Wireframe Cabinet Mini using scraps of maple I had laying around. This version was only two feet tall and I used bridle joints at all the corners.  I don’t remember why I decided to twist the post, but I liked the effect.

Wireframe Cabinet Mini

After building Wireframe Cabinet Mini, I realized that there were many other paths that the line symbolizing the cabinet frame could have taken to arrive at the centre. I returned to my sketchbook and drew as many as I could.

This is the other path I liked that gave the cabinet frame a closed feel, which I wanted.  (I may build some frames that are more open at a later date.)  I decided to try mitres with blind splines.  (While I was happy with the look of the bridle joints and mitre joints, I would like to try splined mitres next time.)

Wireframe Cabinet Right

The object of interest rests on the centre cradle and is framed by the cabinet members.

Wireframe Cabinet LeftThe frame looks different from every angle.

Wireframe Cabinet Front

The post is rather curvy and twisted indeed.

Wireframe Cabinet Top

This piece is for sale. Learn more about it on the product page.

Links:

Insanity 2: The Carcase

I attribute my success to my relentless push to try to fail.  Insanity 2 is about trying to design something which I cannot create.

Since my last blog update on Insanity 2, I laminated two curved sides and a curved bottom.  Then I was faced with the task of joining them together.  Although the four sides of the cabinet were curved like potato chips, cutting the joinery by hand wasn’t any more difficult than any other situation.  However, layout was exceedingly difficult and I took my time.

First, I coped the ends of the sides to fit tightly between the top and bottom panels.  After that, I used a combination square to draw a line 5/8″ from the coped edge.  One challenge I faced was using the square, with a large, flat reference surface, to mark a line parallel to a curved surface.  This wasn’t ideal, but I did my best.

Coping

My next challenge was laying out the fingers.  If the end were straight and face were flat, I would just use a square to extend layout lines along the edge and face.  But since neither were flat, I had to modify my techniques.  I clamped the side panel in my wooden twin screw vise, approximately level.  Then, I set a square on the front vise jaw and marked the face of the board with the vertical leg of the square.

To mark guide lines on the end of the board, I used the slot down the centre of my Veritas Large Saddle Square for the panels with flatter faces.  For other panels, I clamped a straight edge to the board and referenced the square off of it.

Fingers

The first corner joint was an adventure.  The second went much better and the last two were a piece of cake.

Insanity Cabinet Top

I dry-fit the cabinet and sat it on my bench.  I clamped the doors in the vise to get an idea of what it will look like together.

Insanity Cabinet High

I left the fingers long to make assembly, disassembly, and clamping easier.

Insanity Cabinet Front

My next steps, the order of which is to be determined, are to figure out how to install the back panel, design the shelves, and glue-up the cabinet with the back and shelves at the same time, if necessary.

Links:

Designing from Scratch

When I set out to design something, I sometimes find it helpful to make a list of requirements.

If designing a chair, my list might look like this:

  1. the seat must be at an appropriate height and shaped or upholstered for comfort;
  2. the chair must bear the weight of the user;
  3. it should have a back rest;
  4. it should be stable in use;
  5. wood is the primary material used; and
  6. I want to use traditional joinery; etc.

For Insanity 2, I made a different-looking list of requirements to help me think outside of the box:

  1. the design should be adventurous enough to make me question my sanity for attempting to build it at every step along the way;
  2. the design should be easily distinguishable from other designs;
  3. wood does not have to be the primary material;
  4. the figured ash does not need to be the focal point, nor does it need to be used in the final product;
  5. the framed ash panels do not have to be doors;
  6. if making a cabinet, the apparent doors do not have to be working;
  7. I don’t have to use a clear finish;
  8. a cabinet does not need to have completely enclosed space;
  9. it doesn’t need to have curves;
  10. I don’t need to finish it this month, or this year;
  11. it doesn’t need to be functional;
  12. it can be wall-mounted or free-standing;
  13. I want to be able to make the entire piece myself (no outsourcing); and
  14. the overall construction should be sound.

Links:

Quality is Contagious: John Economaki and Bridge City Tool Works

All photos in this post are courtesy of Neil Clemmons.

Last week, I took a 9 hour train ride south to Portland, Oregon for the opening of Quality is Contagious: John Economaki and Bridge City Tool Works, an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.  An estimated 300 people were in attendance that night.

John Economaki, former furniture maker and President and Founder of Bridge City Tool Works

John Economaki, former furniture maker and President and Founder of Bridge City Tool Works

The exhibit featured select pieces that John created during his notable, if abbreviated, career as a furniture maker.

Waterfall Desk

Waterfall Desk by John Economaki.  Circa 1981

Throughout the exhibit were also a selection of quotes which also appear in the book, Quality Is Contagious: John Economaki & Bridge City Tool Works, 36 Years Through the Lens of Joe Felzman, that accompanies the exhibit.

Brenner Clock

Brenner Clock by John Economaki. Circa 1978

Requiring slightly more floor space were the tools that John created under the name of Bridge City Tool Works.

Layout Tools

Some of the many tools produced by Bridge City Tool Works

Also on display were a few pieces that John created with the Bridge City Tool Works products.  This chess set was impressive from both a technical and design perspective.  That, of course, was no surprise to anyone familiar with his work.

Fog of War

Fog of War by John Economaki. Circa 2013

The next day, I attended an open house at the Bridge City Tool Works Showroom and Skunk Lab (their prototyping and assembly workspace).

Skunk Lab

John Economaki talked about the Jointmaker Pro. Jack, the fellow in the white shirt, travelled from China to attend.

After the open house, we were invited to John’s house for a Book Party.  I collected signatures from John, Joe Felzman and the other contributors present.  I also had the idea to collect signatures from everyone else at the party on the protective cardboard case for the book, which turned out to be a great way to meet new people.

Book Signing Photo

Customers, friends, family, and contributors to the book enjoyed a beautiful evening in John’s backyard

On the third day, Bridge City Tool Works organized a couple of buses to take us on a tour to three wineries.

Harry, of

Harry, of Chehalem Wines, talked to us about his wines in the shade of a large canopy

My trip to Portland was as memorable as any I have taken.  The museum exhibition was inspiring and humbling, and the open house gave me further insight into the Bridge City Tool Works world.  The party at John’s house and wine tour gave me an opportunity to meet and talk to other customers, as well as his friends and family.

I would strongly recommend viewing the exhibition.  It is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon until February 8, 2014 and it is my understanding that it will then travel the country.  I would also recommend getting yourself a copy of the accompanying book.  It is an amazing book, put together in a very similar fashion to how I imagine I would do it – lots of pictures, bits of trivia, interesting stories, and quotes.

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