Sunday, December 5, 2010


February 2010...
My lathe was born...

the first few months were rough, we had a lot to sort out, a lot to learn, about eachother...

wood moves, get over it...

maybe the greatest woodworking quote of all time, I'm sure the poet who penned it had no idea I'd forget his/her name...

an all wood treadle lathe moves a lot, but Christopher and Mary over at CME Handworks anticipated this in their construction.
I've had ten months now to get acquainted with this baby, I know now to check the head stock alignment first, tighten all the grub screws. The paver has migrated to its desired home on the right half of the treadle, every thing is oiled, my stool has finally found its destiny...

I don't even need the heater on this side of the shop. It's effortless to spin, till you stick a piece of metal in it, but I've learned to use that metal...

and true to my nature, I'm not a Neaderthal, I've upgraded my technology...
just haven't learned to use it right yet, sorry, I'll get the orientation correct next time.

if you know Santa, please tell him I need a tripod for an iPhone 4...
and if you are the Apple repair guy, pretend you didn't see this video.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

eye candy

this is life...
precious few moments to spend
doing what you love

for those you love

wrenching free a bit of you
to give to someone else

I guess it's worth it in the end.

Friday, November 5, 2010

as promised...

...although a little later than expected

I had the chance to exercise my left brain for a while, stroke the anal retentive, OCD and sort some hardware

Tiny oval drawer stops are screwed into the back of the front stretcher, accommodating both the upper and lower drawers, a quick swivel and the drawers can be pulled free.

Now this doesn't mean I stop, another ugly piece of plastic needed to be replaced, and this was pretty simple. A few scraps from the tabletop(s) and voila...

nice place to put stuff, a series of holes in the cherry top for screwdrivers and files, and a couple tombstone cleats, and that plastic is gone!

and then there's Xmas. Started early this year with a couple purchases from Ron Bresse, a few chunks of well dried wood and four weekends.

I would show you more but you'll have to guess for now

And my favorite holiday of all!!!
Actually had a whole day to work on these, each little guy found his own personality

If at least one kid refuses to walk up to these and get free candy, then well, I've done my job

Saturday, August 21, 2010


as summer flows past in its irregular heartbeat of projects one thing has remained the same, the plodding progression of drawer building. Just when it all appears to be nearing completion, the last dovetail cut, the last groove plowed, widths and lengths tweaked, a few questions arise.

Do I really like these knobs?

well... not really, they interfere with the design in ways I can't quite figure

too small, too busy, wrong color

so it's back to the lathe, a strip of hard maple trimmed from the tabletop, and the lessons learned from the previous bunch. One afternoon is all I need this time, thirteen pieces from one stick, though it was a little hairy near the beginning.

And then it's time! Glue-up...

no wait...

Maybe I should finish the insides of the drawers first, after all sanding between coats will be so much simpler, just don't finish the tails or pins...

where to put all these pieces!

After the insides are complete I can do the glue-up (no I'm not procrastinating) final fitting, and then finish the outsides. Then I can show you the finished pictures, I think you'll agree the new knobs really made the piece!

Monday, July 5, 2010

dog days

When I say it's hot, it's hot
Hot enough to strip lead paint from cheap plywood
these are the days your planes look worn

drips of sweat tarnish in an instant, grain raises in tiny crop circles on your piece
dust doesn't move, weighed down by the relentless summer dank

a row of pins is all I can manage before taking a stroll in the flower ranked shade

another row, maybe a groove

a little pairing

or maybe it;s time to sit my butt down and spin a few knobs

delicate pen blanks in black and white Ebony, too small for anything else, but perfect in proportion to the drawers, I can pull five from each blank and a failed handle makes two more.

I'm just now beginning to see the enormity of the task, only five drawers fitted and over a month has passed, the worst of the summer doldrums yet to come.

Dare I buy a fan?

or just keep on going despite the heat?

Friday, June 18, 2010

one drawer at a time

What you are about to witness may confound your senses, cause you to feel emotions youl'd rather not talk about in public, force you like a madman to run wildly (and nakedly if the need arise) out or down or up or over to your shop and set to work

I just spent the afternoon rabbeting five small bits of wood, four rabbets each, plus two pieces with only two, so a sliver over a sixteenth of an inch ran the span between the front and back stretchers. Each rabbet took twenty four to thirty passes with a large rabbet plane, on my fence equipped shooting board, and maybe only twice did the cut have to be mended. A good plane is predictable, true, a good plane should cut a flat surface the same amount so that after thirty two passes, the surface is completely parallel to its origin. It helps to know how to hold the plane, how to push, how to steady, and hold plumb, when to skew or tilt or dip, you learn the sound, the feel, you anticipate a calamity and prevent it.

This is what I love about hand tools, each becomes a part of you. I work all day with routers, table saws, chop saws, radial arm saws, jig saws, sanders of all colors and sizes, a massive dust control system and some really uncomfortable safety gear, it's like getting suited up for a joust, then taking it all off and shutting everything down for ten minutes just to think and measure and yes, actually do math, then don the armor, turn on the noise makers and get er done.

Thank the gods for filler!

There's no finesse in a production shop, it's pretty as long as you don't look too close. I'm constantly heckled for my desire to be accurate, they call it "working too close"

Oh crap, if only they could see my furniture.

Finally making the decision to fab each drawer individually may either be the stupidest idea ever or the best. I considered at length dimensioning all sixty pieces, smoothing and ganging up the dovetails, then realized I didn't want to fall into the production mode. Each step requiring much more than the snippets of time I have available.

So, in essence, I gang up four sides, layout and saw all the dovetails, then find the best matches, prep two backs and two fronts, and put them aside. Dinner sometimes gets made, a movie watched, a beer or two. Some nights I make it back out, chop a few tails, complete the layout (there's a crap-load of layout!) I figure about four hours for each drawer, unless I blow out the spalted maple. Did I mention the front shoulder of the half-blind is 3/16 of an inch. Lesson #7543 always chop the half blind front first in case the just mentioned does occur, because you can always chop the rear fulls while you wait for the glue to dry.

In the mean time I have to show you what I do for work:

From Australopithecines to Zoetroupes I do it all

And I can make matched sets

That is an LED fired, hydro terrariun, by the way.

Oh yea, this post is supposed to be about woodworking

Nice thing about the drawers, each will be unique, thinner walls, different dovetails, attention to its own attributes.

Four down, eight to go!

Monday, May 24, 2010


Yea yea yea, I know, I haven't done a damn thing with the blog for over a month, well, neither have any of my favorite woodworking bloggers either.

Maybe we have similar afflictions...

The gardens become my obsession as soon as the snow melts away, the days get longer, the weeds taller, spotting the difference between a weed and a prized seedling becomes routine. Each specimen is catalogued, and cross referenced, colors blended in an expressionistic composition. the desire to fulfill the optic pleasure throughout the season.

But I do still get in the shop.

The dining set is on hold for a while, wood doesn't grow on trees you know!
My walnut will be ready soon, but the idea of planing twenty square feet of anything in eighty degree heat really doesn't appeal to my sense of self preservation. Plus a couple tools are still awaiting completion and delivery, so the fun can't really begin on the underside (a nineteenth century #113 did arrive not long ago, though)

So it's on to smaller stuff.

There's a big plastic parts bin, probably Hecho en China, in the most glaring awful yellow, any straight parts now twisted and bent with time (a couple years) right smack dab over my bench, and in my field of vision at all times. And for just a moment I saw this piece of wood there instead:

Of course you know what comes next.

I will admit, the table top has been the cut in the learning curve for hand planing. That and a little potty-time refresher in The Schwarz's Course, Medium, Fine. I was able to dimension, flatten and smooth all the pieces in a weekend. Learning when an iron needs to be honed and the practiced skill of quick and accurate sharpening has also been a godsend. Another tidbit I found on the web suggested ganging multiple dovetail pieces together. Believe it or not they are much tighter and in half the time!

I'll keep that in mind later. There's one hundred (exactly, no kidding) sets of dovetails here; 26 half blinds, 26 through, and 48 dovetailed laps, add in a few dozen mortice and tenons.

May as well get started!

This will be a great summer project, not too much sweat, and lots of small successes. I'll be in sand a good deal, and at the Museum a bit, but when I'm home, I'll have many chances to spend an hour or two.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I've had a good weekend, a few afternoons after work, and a couple odd hours otherwise, after giving this thing a good lube, or two, the action is so smooth it's almost a letdown, I really thought I'd get a workout.

Once it all settled in, it's really no effort at all, just gotta keep the rhythm.

The first piece off the lathe is actually two; "matching" handles for my BIG files.

Figured I'd make a subtle change to each to mark the difference in the tools themselves.

The hard maple cut-offs from the tabletop seemed to be as good a challenge as I could muster, but the results are out of this world! I really can't believe a meat-powered machine could do work like this, total control over speed and depth of cut.

I've been transitioning over for a couple years to pure hand-work, and I love it. Every time I perform the same task without power, noise, and dust, I'm continually amazed at the speed, accuracy and fulfillment I can achieve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I'm always up for a challenge, but this is crazy.

stand there, weight on one foot, Karate Kid crane stance, whuu

free foot bicycles in place, whuuuahh

steady rhythm

force on the push stroke, hyyya

barely disengage at the upper apex

hold a tool

light grasp near the end

the real way to hold a hammer

four fingers and the weight of the other hand

slide it home

hips and shoulders and legs and arms


yea right, I get it, but it's not there yet. I know what to do after just a few hours, but I have the sneaking suspicion that it will take many months of those hours to get it right, long enough to even sail a ribbon

oh yea, one more thing.

square stock!, you can't match the center if the end ain't square!

and when your meat is doing all the work, every little bit counts, every sliver of friction you can loose, every edge, that's why wood turners know planes! (not like I'd even know that, but I'm pretty damn sure I'm right!

You are asking yourself, wait, what the hell is he talking about.

I must have forgotten to tell you.

I finally dove.

After many months pondering, checking the finances and schedules, I bought it.

CME Handworks Inc. Treadle Lathe

It's a pretty little thing, well not so little, but you get my drift

Really beautifully made, great curves and even brand spanking new, pretty smooth.

It's me that's going to take some work.

The design is simplicity in itself, matched with an elegant grace. It really demands to be used. And there's smashing little touches like the Bubinga handles (which by the way look perfect with just a coat of paste wax!)

I will get a good finish on it as the weather warms up but for now it's quite an entertaining workout. Think about it, hand planes really do the upper body some good, now how about a little somthin somethin for the waist down.

Having never turned a thing except some handles on the drill press with a rasp and sandpaper,

this is a challenge indeed.