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Monday, January 13, 2014

The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Craftsman or Arts and Crafts, style of furniture has been somewhat maligned in many woodworking circles recently.  Many modern craftsmen are more interested in either much more ornate adornments as seen in Period furniture, or modern style furniture featuring little ornamentaion, but featuring complex curves, twists, and few straight lines. My personal taste falls more towards straight lines, but simple construction.

I've been a fan of Craftsman furniture for quite some time now.  I guess because I'm kind of a basic person.  To me, a well made joint is a beautiful thing, and Craftsman highlights joinery better than any style of furniture I've seen.

The Arts and Crafts Movement began in England during what we now refer to as the Victorian era.  People like John Ruskin and William Morris distrusted the industrialization of their country.  Morris believed that industrialization "alienated labor and created a dehumanizing distance between the designer and manufacturer." (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acam/hd_acam.htm)

Here in the United States, Morris became the one many architects looked to for inspiration.  As with most other styles, furniture design went hand in hand with architecture.  Perhaps the most famous Arts and Crafts furniture designers in the eastern U.S. were the Stickley brothers, Leopold and Gustav.  It was the Stickleys who really made the Craftsman style famous.

Like many others, the Stickleys were inspired by William Morris, whose Morris chair is a well known design.
Their designs also became known as Mission style due to the influence of furniture found in old Spanish missions in the American west.  They worked mainly in quartersawn white oak, but also used other species.  The hallmark of Stickley designs was the highlighting of joinery with the intent of glorifying the craftsman.  As a result, the style became one for anyone to use in his home.

"Stickley furniture was not for shutting up in formal parlors—it was to be used and loved by
young and old.:
-Stickley.com/OurStickleyStory

This is probably my favorite thing about the style.  It was meant to be used.  By using thick pieces of wood and rock solid joinery in the construction, a heavy-duty piece was created.  The grain of the wood is allowed to take the forefront in the design without ornate carvings to draw the eye.  Exposed joinery is actually highlighted, rather than hidden, giving a nod to the person in the shop building the piece.

I certainly don't intend to tell anyone what they should like.  Instead, what I'm trying to say is think critically about why you do or don't like something.  Instead of just saying "That's ugly" or "I like that," think about what it is about something you do or don't like.  Is it the lines, ornamentation, negative space?  What I find most appealing about Craftsman furniture is the simplicity.  What do you like or dislike about it?

I thought it would be fun to learn a bit about where the style came from.  Obviously this is just a brief summary of the Arts and Crafts movement.  I realize I left out Greene and Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright, and probably other well known people in the movement, but who wants to read a 20 page blog post?  I also wanted to explain a bit about why I chose Craftsman as the style for my table.

The parts for the table are rough cut, and waiting to be put through the jointer and planer.  The fun begins this week. Of course, I'd love to hear what you think.  Please leave a comment, positive or negative.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On To The Next Project

Well, the craziness that is the holiday season is behind us. That means it's time to start thinking about what comes next.  The easel build for Woodworkers Fighting Cancer was a success, both for me, and for Cancer Care which ended up with donations totaling over $11,000.  Thanks again go out to Marc Spagnuolo- the Wood Whisperer, Steve Ramsey at Woodworking For Mere Mortals, and all the sponsors who made it possible to do so much good.

Enough with the past, on to the future.  I'm not big on making resolutions, but I have set a woodworking goal for myself for 2014.  I fully intend to begin work on my first Windsor chair project. It's been a dream of mine for quite a while.  Note that I intend to begin work on it, no promises on a finished project by year's end.  We will see what happens.

For the more immediate future, I plan to enter a Craftsman style end table into a contest being put on by Woodworkers Source.  I hammered out the basic design already, so I should be able to start milling lumber soon.  The table will be another cherry piece, as I still have several board feet hoarded in the rafters of my shop.  Even though most people associate Craftsman style with quartersawn oak, cherry was also used extensively.

I am hoping to be able to blog about this build, as it will be the first project of my own design.  The deadline for the build is March 1, so that should give me plenty of time.  Here's the Sketchup of the table.  Any suggestions or criticisms are welcome, as saw hasn't yet met wood.  Just be kind since my Sketchup skills are lacking.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.  Don't forget to follow me on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter @cnyredneck, and/or add me on Google+.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Woodworkers Fighting Cancer 2013




First, a quick update is in order.  The Moxon vise is completed.  I ended up being able to turn the dowels for the screws on the lathe, so no store bought dowels were used in the construction of the vise.  I tried to use them, but they didn't agree with my threadbox.

So here's a picture of the finished project.  Hopefully it will come in handy for my next project: the children's art easel for The Wood Whisperer's Woodworkers Fighting Cancer charity build.

 

I began milling some cherry earlier this week for that project, before a nasty stomach bug came through and grounded everyone here but the dogs.  I'm hoping to get back to it Monday.  Some of you have likely heard about this, but for those who haven't: here's the deal.  Go to Wood Magazine to download the plans, order your lumber if you need to- Bell Forest Products has kits available and is donating for every kit they sell- build the easel, submit a picture to Marc at The Wood Whisperer.  That's it, you're done.  For each submission (1 per person) Marc Spagnuolo will donate $5.00 to Cancer Care.  The best part is that he has lined up corporate sponsors, all of which are donating as well.  They include the likes of Festool, Hock Tools, and Microjig,in addition to Bell Forest, and Wood Magazine.

If the project in the plan is just a bit out of reach for you, Steve Ramsey over at Woodworking For Mere Mortals has designed a bit more basic version of the easel. Steve has also partnered with Marc and will make $5.00 donations of his own for each easel completed. For information and plans on Steve's version of the project go to Woodworking For Mere Mortals.  In addition, Steve is auctioning off his easel and donating the proceeds to Cancer Care.  The deadline for submissions is December 9, 2013, so get going.

If you're like me, cancer has touched your life.  It rarely has a positive effect. Cancer Care helps patients and their families with the day to day things, giving them less to be concerned with. To learn more about them, you can visit their website here: http://www.cancercare.org/.  If you aren't a woodworker- read many of my family and friends who follow this blog- you can still help out.  Just visit http://community.cancercare.org/wwfc to make a donation.  If you can't build or donate, spread the word!




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I'm Back

I know it's been a couple months since I posted, but I haven't been doing much to write about. The gun rack project has been placed securely in Limbo for the moment, so I took the down time as a chance to do some major cleaning in the shop. 

I have certainly had the itch to actually make some sawdust though. Enter my latest project: the Moxon vise. A Moxon vise is named for Joseph Moxon, an English tradesman and author from the 1600s. In his writings, he described a benchtop vise which would elevate a workpiece to make cutting dovetails or tenons easier. 

Since I don't have a "proper" woodworking bench to work in, my capabilities for holding wood to plane, saw, or do whatever with are limited. The plan is to use the Moxon vise as the clamping workhorse in the shop until such time as I can build my bench. The best part is, it's not going to cost me a dime. 

I have a bunch of lumber from my wife's grandfather, nice air dried stuff (thanks, Grampy). In addition to quite a bit of beautiful cherry- the stuff I used for Stacey's jewelry box- I have a couple of pieces of 8/4 poplar about 5 1/2" wide. Poplar probably isn't ideal for this application due to its softness, but I have it. 

I took one of the boards and cut three pieces to a rough length of about 22". The finished length will be 20", which should accommodate the ability to clamp a board up to 18" between the two screws. I then proceeded to face joint, edge joint, and run each board through the planer to ensure flat, square, and parallel surfaces. Here's what they look like.

The next step was to make the screws to use when clamping a workpiece in the vise. They need to have what is essentially a 1" dowel, which will be threaded, attached to a handle of some sort. I could easily have just bought a 1" hardwood dowel, threaded it, made a handle, and glued them together. Not really my style. Off to the lathe I went. 

The first one came out great. 
The second one...  Well, let's just say that I added a few pieces to the firewood pile. As I said on my Knotheads Facebook page, hopefully the fifth time will be the charm.

As always I would love to hear from you. You can leave a comment here, Look for Knotheads Custom Woodworking on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @cnyredneck, or on Google+. 
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shop Time Blues

I was hoping to get in some shop time this past week to get started on the gun racks for my brother-in-law Dave, but so far that hasn't materialized.  The good news is that I should be able to at least get started on some templates.  I did sneak into the shop for a couple of hours to play with my lathe last week.

The lathe is nothing spectacular.  It's a hand-me-down from my wife's grandfather, but if I had to buy one, it'd be just short of never before I had one.  The thing works well enough for what little turning I do.  It's a Craftsman bench top lathe with a very short distance between the bed and the centers.  Great for spindle turning, but I probably won't be turning any significant bowls or platters on it.

A while back, I decided that I really need a mallet for striking my chisels with.  My hammer worked well enough.  Given that I use cheap plastic handled chisels with no striking plate on the top, though, I figured the handles would likely mushroom eventually being hit by hardened steel.

On our way back from a family vacation to Sesame Place, just outside of Philadelphia, and a trip to Ikea (groan), we stopped in at the Woodcraft store in Allentown, PA.  Danny had a blast touching all of the tools, finishes, chunks of wood, etc. that were on display.  Who would expect less from a kid turning 2 in a couple of weeks.  We did buy him his own little piece of wood since it was only a $1.99.  As for me, I was specifically looking for wood to make my mallet.  I actually wanted the head to be hard maple, but I wasn't able to find a blank of sufficient size.  I ended up settling on a 3"x3" chunk of white ash.  It was good enough to hit 90 mph fastballs for years, so I thought it could survive striking a plastic chisel handle.

For the mallet handle, I really wanted to get some bubinga.  Having never worked with an exotic, it appealed to me because I could use it sparingly.  Not just that, but the cost of a turning blank is considerably less than buying several board feet for a large project.  Well, as you may guess, no bubinga, so I settled on a nice piece of paduak for my handle.

When I got into the shop, I chucked up the ash first.  It turned pretty easily.  Of course, all I had to do was turn a cylinder and flare the ends in a bit.  When I had the ash where I wanted it, I removed it from the lathe and started to drill a 1" hole all the way through the center of the piece.  This came with its own challenges.  Let's just say after a lot of smoke, some really hot dust, and a bit of scorching- of the wood thankfully- I managed to get through.  On to the handle.

I carefully measured the hole in the head with my calipers so I'd have a guide for my tenon.  I chucked the padauk up in the lathe, and began turn it from square to round.  Keep in mind that I have next tot no experience on the lathe, and none with exotic hardwoods.  Well I ended up getting a catch while rounding the blank.  This ended up pulling the blank off the spurs of the drive center.  It was a good thing that the centers held, or it woulda hurt.  After a couple of times having to put the blank back onto the drive center spurs, it was finally round.  Had I known how hard this stuff was, I might have opted to use it for the head.

Once I had it round, I set to turning the tenon. With calipers in hand, I used my parting tool to turn the top to fit in the head.  I started with just a couple slots to establish the diameter, then turned the rest down to match- or at least as close as I could get. I also turned a bit of an angled shoulder to try to get as tight a fit as I could going into the head.  The rest was pretty simple. I just used a couple of different gouges to get to a diameter that felt comfortable in my grip.  I did add a little bead in the middle and at the base just for a bit of flair.

After pulling the handle off of the lathe, I test fit it into the head.  Yup, Tight at the very top, loose in the middle, and God only knows how it fit at the bottom.  I wasn't about to put it all in and not be able to get it apart to glue up.  Instead of using yellow glue, I used epoxy because of the gaps in the tenon on the handle.  The epoxy will fill gaps with some structure, which the yellow glue won't.  Once I get some oil on it it should give me years of use.

This is the mallet, waiting for finish.


Friday, August 9, 2013

I Found It

I had been looking for quite some time and suddenly there it was, right under my nose.  I recently went to a meeting of the Sawdust & Woodchips Woodworking Association to check things out.  What a great time it was!  As might be expected, the club members are mostly older guys, but there were a few younger guys and even a couple of women also.  In fact, the president is a woman.  How's that for breaking a stereotype?

The meeting I attended was a "super show and tell."  The majority of the meeting was dedicated to members showing off projects, talking about them, and answering questions.  There were some really gorgeous pieces there.  They ranged from a shave horse to a small cherry end table.  Everyone who spoke was very knowledgeable.

In talking to a few of the members before the meeting and during a short break, I found out that there are presentations on techniques, tools, and other things at other meetings.  Everyone I spoke with was extremely friendly, and certainly didn't take themselves too seriously.  I think I'll be going back next month to become a member.  If you live in Central New York and would like to join, or at least check it out, go to sawdustwoodchips.org for more info.  They happily welcome visitors, so you don't have to be a member to attend a meeting.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More important than woodworking

Usually my posts talk about woodworking, what project I'm working on, a technique I used, designing my next project.  There are, of course some things which are much more important in life than what finish to use on a jewelry chest.

In January 2012, Nikki Ormsby was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.  Her dad, Scott Allen is a friend of mine.  As you might have guessed, the news of Nikki's illness devastated family and friends.  After having been closely involved with battles against cancer several times in my own life, some on the losing side, when I hear about someone needing help in his/ her fight, I try to do as much as I can.

As you know, there is no cure for cancer right now.  It can be beaten, though.  My mom is still living after having been through two bouts with lung cancer.  It isn't easy to beat, though, and certainly not cheap.  Having said that, I want to ask for your help.  If you're able, Nikki needs donations to continue her fight.  If she doesn't raise the money to continue treatment, the prognosis is...well not good.  Here's a link to a fund raising page: http://www.gofundme.com/22ihps.  All donated funds will go directly to Nikki and her family.  If you are unable to help out financially, you can still help by spreading the word about Nikki's fight.  Post the link to Facebook, get on Twitter and tweet it, use any means possible to get Nikki the help she needs.  There is more information on Nikki's page.  Thanks.