The Relentless Push to Fail

One thing that really helped me learn and develop my woodworking skills was having an abundance of materials. Having an adequate supply on hand meant that it wasn’t so valuable that I felt the need to be especially careful using it. This allowed me to experiment and take chances with less to lose.

Failure, or more precisely, his relentless push to fail, is the single most defining thing about Chris’ work.

Working with live edge slabs further improved my abilities. This material presented unique design opportunities and challenged my mind, as often there were no straight edges or reference surfaces on which to rely. The knowledge and experience gained here helped me conquer my future designs with complex curves, twists and angles (although a few designs still elude successful completion). I came up with many of these designs as a challenge to see if I could really make them a reality (many I did, some I did not).

A fine woodworker makes what he believes in. He makes what he sees in his mind's eye. Jonathan L. Fairbanks

I recall that at one point, I actually believed that everything had already been done. Now I know that is not true. Never one to simply follow what’s already been done, I am always looking for ways to do things differently.

A lot of my work is inspired by the thought: “I wonder if it would be possible to…” or “I wonder what would happen if…”

Venturing down paths unknown can be difficult, both technically and mentally. You don’t have the reassuring thought that “it’s already been done before, so I can do this too”. To realize new ideas takes a great deal of belief in yourself. It is definitely helpful to have time and materials to invest in the process. Having a good assortment of tools, visualization skills, and a healthy imagination is helpful too.

Faith is not being sure where you are going but going anyway. Frederich BuechnerAlthough I feel that being able to do something well is important, knowing that you can carry on after something has gone sideways is even more valuable. This confidence, this faith that you can succeed is key in being comfortable taking chances.

Techniques are a starting place, and I do believe that in a sense, technique sets you free. Tom Loeser

The slides in this post were used in my PechaKucha presentation.

Artwalk 2013

Friday, April 12th at 6:30pm is when the 14th Annual Artwalk will kick off with the opening reception at Old Mill Boathouse (#3 on the map) at Rocky Point Park.  Then, Saturday and Sunday will feature the Artwalk event.  Most of the venues will be along Clarke Street in Port Moody and in the middle of everything you’ll find The Gallery Bistro (#8) – just look for the chair in the tree!

I will be at the Opening Reception Friday night, then at The Gallery Bistro with my woodwork Saturday from 12-5pm.  On Sunday, I will be at The Gallery Bistro from 12-4pm and after that, at the closing party just down the block at the Queens Street Plaza Main Stage (#10).  I hope to see you there!

Click on the image to view it full size.

ArtWalk Schedule of Events-Centennial Page

This is the sixteenth slide from my PechaKucha presentation.


Yoshio Mochizuki – BL-B493

Bunacolamp by Yoshio Mochizuki

Artist Name:  Yoshio Mochizuki of Bunaco
Title:  BL-B493 (Bunaco Bracket Lamp)
Details:  Beech, ∅300mm  x 125mm

Why It’s Notable:

The form is very interesting, but what is even more fascinating is the process used to make the lamp.  Watch this video (3:02) to see the how their vessels (a speaker housing in this case) are shaped.  The takeaway: there is always room for innovation.

New Quote Added to “Quotables”

I am reading David Savage’s book, Furniture With Soul: Master Woodworkers and Their Craft.  It’s a very interesting read full of insights and pictures and I would certainly recommend it to anyone passionate about woodworking, especially someone who likes to push the boundaries.  This quote comes from page 220.

The techniques are a starting place, and I do believe that in a sense, technique sets you free.  Once you have a ‘toolbox’, then the question becomes what you’re going to make, and why.

– Tom Loeser

Find this quote, along with many other interesting quotes on the page titled Quotables.

Maple Trestle Table, Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring; and
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop! #flairww -10:39 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I swept the shavings from my surfacing session into a pile.#flairww -11:09 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I started laying out possible feet for the trestle table, but I need to first determine the width of the top. #flairww -11:24 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s no fun lifting the slabs onto sawhorses by myself so I cleared the floor. #flairww -11:28 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I laid down strips of wood on which to lay the slabs and allow clearance for my fingers! #flairww -11:29 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I must be crazy to be building such a large table in my shop.#flairww -11:33 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I need to cut the pieces to join them together so they look something like this. #flairww -11:39 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks As much as I like the continuation of the main bole, it would make seating awkward. #flairww -11:43 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The drawing bow is a great tool. The strap holds the curvature. I just wish I had a longer one. #flairww -11:44 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I hold down the drawing bow with one hand and transfer its shape with a pencil in the other. #flairww -11:47 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I work one short section at a time to avoid flexing the drawing bow with pressure from the pencil. #flairww -11:48 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks A pencil line can be hard to see so I draw a squiggly line on the waste side using the drawing bow as a stop. #flairww -11:49 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Standard jigsaw blades aren’t long enough to cut these 2-1/2″-thick slabs so I bought longer blades. #flairww -11:56 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The black blade is about 1/4″ too short. I have to use the loooong blade which is 6-3/4″ long overall. #flairww -11:59 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I elevated the slab using I-beams (H-beams if you’re French) to provide clearance for the blade. #flairww -12:05 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I got the idea of I-beams from my buddy Serge. He’s said to be the most prolific tipster! Serge’s blog#flairww -12:07 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m not sue why, but I’m a little nervous about this cut. Here goes! #flairww -12:10 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I decided to redraw the cut line with a black marker before making the cut. I feel a little less nervous now. #flairww -12:16 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One cut down… #flairww -12:24 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I pretty much ignored my layout lines and just cut a smooth curve. #flairww -12:27 PM Apr 19th, 2012

(I recorded this video to show what a cut in 2-1/4″ thick Western maple is like.  I used a Festool Trion PS 300 EQ Jigsaw which draws 6 amps with a Trion S145/4FSG blade set for a maximum orbital stroke for a quick cut.  Duration – 0:55)

FlairWoodworks This is the bade after one cut. The teeth at the very top are a little blue from heat build up. #flairww -12:30 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The saw seemed to cut more slowly with it set for a full orbital stroke than none at all. #flairww -12:32 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My curve was pretty even except for this bump. #flairww -12:35 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It was at the bump that my cut was the most out of square. I’m not sure what happened there. #flairww -12:37 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I broke a blade. I have no idea why I broke. The cut seemed to be going fine. Any ideas? #flairww -12:55 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks your lucky you have a festool jigsaw, if you had a normal one that “out of square” would have looked like a 30 degree bevel! -12:50 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster My old jigsaw didn’t even have enough power to cut 2″ maple. #flairww -12:57 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha ha ha!! I take back my comment about the saw cutting more slowly on full orbital than none… I read the scale backwards. #flairww-12:59 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks heat weakened metal? -1:05 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I don’t think so. It didn’t bend, it broke. It’s still as straight as an arrow. RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks heat weakened metal? -1:06 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks why does it look so black right above the break -1:08 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I believe that is from the carbide guides. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks why does it look so black right above the break -1:09 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks ohhhh… then I’m clueless -1:11 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks so does this mean your S.O.L until you get a new one? -1:12 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I bought a pack of 5 for $30. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks so does this mean your S.O.L until you get a new one? -1:16 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks Im that Guy that would only buy 1 and then be running back out after it broke #lame -1:20 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I got interrupted by a half-hour phone call. Back at work now.#flairww -1:40 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is coming along nicely! #flairww -1:48 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m working on designing and building a jig to cut the joints. The plywood pieces will serve as the guides. #flairww -2:03 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Pretty nice-looking for a quick and dirty jig. #flairww -2:15 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m set up to joint the first mating surface of this slab.#flairww -2:35 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is a better angle at which to work. #flairww -2:37 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Oops. I forgot that I had planned to use the jig and a template bit in a router to joint the mating surfaces. #flairww -2:49 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My biggest template bit isn’t long enough to make the cut in one pass. #flairww -2:56 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is as far as I can work with the router. I’ll finish by hand. #flairww -3:02 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I could remove the plywood to gain more depth, but it is my reference surface and the angle of the router might change without it. #flairww -3:03 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I forgot to close the drawer before routing. I also “forgot” to use a Festool router with dust collection. #flairww -3:05 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m using a chisel to pare away the waste. The routed area provides solid registration. #flairww -3:09 PM Apr 19th, 2012

HighRockWW @FlairWoodworks I can laugh only because I have done the same thing before… -3:12 PM Apr 19th, 2012 RT FlairWoodworks I forgot to close the drawer before routing.

FlairWoodworks One surface done. #flairww -3:15 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The second surface is now jointed as well. #flairww -3:26 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Lunch time! #flairww -3:27 PM Apr 19th, 2012

Keep reading!  Session 4 is the next instalment.

Hand Planes

First, some more woodworking poetry.  Pretty soon, I’ll have enough to fill a book!

One plane, two planes,
Three planes, four.
I work until
My arms are sore.

Today, I spent a good part of the day at Coquitlam Lee Valley showroom (where I work part-time) for their Plane Days event.  I talked to lots of interesting people and made lots of shavings.  The day went by quickly but I didn’t have enough time to flatten the 5′-long slab of maple I brought into the shop.  Oh well.  I’ve got two more days to work on it!  Besides, that’s not why I’m there.

I thought I’d share a couple basic tips to get the most out of your hand planes.

  1. Learn how to sharpen and keep the blades sharp!  Don’t overcomplicate sharpening.  Sharp is sharp.  (And dull is dull.)
  2. Check your bench height.  If your bench is too high, you will have a hard time providing sufficient downwards pressure on the plane to get a good cut.  And you will get tired quickly.  Too low, and your back will let you know the next day.
  3. Use your whole body – not just your arms.
  4. Find a way to secure the stock to the bench.  Dogs, clamps, planing stops and vises all work.  Also, make sure your bench is sturdy enough that you don’t have to chase it around either.
  5. If your work rocks on the bench, use a wedge to keep it steady while you flatten one face.  If your bench rocks, shim it.
  6. Be mindful of the sharp edges created while planing.  Two freshly-planed surfaces make a sharp point that can easily cut you!
  7. Watch the grain!  If you are unsure of which direction to plane, set the plane for a light cut and try a test pass.  You will be able to feel when you are going with the grain and when you are going against it.  You can often avoid severe tearout by planing diagonally or across the grain, but you won’t get as smooth a cut as going with the grain either.
  8. Know when to stop.  Don’t get carried away and plane until you are left with a toothpick.  Also, don’t plane into the bench.  My coworkers often warn me of this.
  9. Lower cutting angles are easier to push.  Higher cutting angles are less likely to cause tearout.  A plane with a sharp blade, tight mouth and light cut will produce a good surface in most situations.
  10. Keep your blades sharp.  That’s important.