I'd intended my last entry to be just that, my last entry. But then someone gave me this book, and, well...
When I first read the premise behind Chris Schwarz' proposed Furniture Of Necessity, I really wasn't sure where he was going with the idea. Stripping away ornamentation usually leads to Shaker or Danish Modern, but he was citing source material that seemed more like cave drawings than draftsmanship, and I didn't see the point. Still, I was curious. Schwarz has a tendency to dig through old material, strip the big ideas down, and relentlessly discard anything that's not immediately, and efficiently useful. And he usually comes back with a nugget or three of something unexpected, and precious.
Now that I've finished this book, for the
second time, I'm not 100% sure what
Schwarz is up to. The book is brilliant, and the furniture is gorgeous, there are layers yet that I need to peel back. And even then, he makes it plain that there are things on his mind that are better left unsaid.
When I unwrapped the book, and cracked it open, the obvious things that popped out on my first flip-through were the (gorgeous) photos and illustrations, and the crackling from the painted page edges. (This settles down quickly, leaving a quieter, and very handsome looking volume.) Then I started reading.
His design methods get to the point, without making expensive/ time consuming mockups and prototypes. (A drunken monkey could put some of these methods to solid and efficient use.) He walks through building stools and chairs, using simple, functional, and efficient methods. (One of the most complicated tools is basically a pencil sharpener on steroids.) The trestle tables... Simple, functional, and very attractive furniture. (Truly awesome commentary on that here.) I don't have room for a new table, but when I start grad school, I'm thinking I might just make myself a desk. I'll be reaching for this book when I get there.
And truth be told, all I was able to think about was how cool it would be to
teach this stuff to my boys, once they pass the age of 6. He uses band
saws and drill presses, for the sake of efficiency, but a coping saw, hand plane,
spoke shave, and a modified ship builder's auger would work just fine
for smaller hands, if you wanted to build one of these chairs with a
child. I don't just want to build this stuff, I want to share the
experience. So in that regard, I think the author has done his job well.
Clearly there was a lot more to the cave drawings than I properly understood.
This quote reached out and poked me in the eye while I was reading about the 6-board chest:
"After all, if you are going to build these projects by hand and build them for the non-rich, you have got to be efficient."
After all of his years in editing and publishing, I'm sure that Mr. Schwarz is very careful when writing in the second person. It makes sense when he's walking the reader through a build, or in a comment like: "If you want to learn how to build furniture, you have to study furniture." Because his tone is so casual, a random aside like the one I put in italics wouldn't normally stick out... but I've already had a pretty solid go at this whole furniture making business once already, so it hit me a little differently than it would have a decade ago. I'm not sure if he was just assuming the reader wants to make an enterprise out of building furniture, or if he's trying to quietly, conversationally, plant the seed of that idea. Either way, it felt subtly done.
At that point, the tone of the book took a left turn for me, and I started paying closer attention.
Schwarz comes clean about some of his motivations at the end of the book. He's clearly had it with idle chatter from professional moaners, uselessly rambling about
the loss of the craft.* He's very much interested in making people
want to get off their backsides, and do things. And so he's stripped that idea
down to something that's immediately and efficiently useful. The projects in
this book can be built with a set of tools that will fill a small
backpack, even if he pairs them with ideas and ways of thinking about
design that will help you fill your house... and maybe someone else's,
My observation after reading the book, is to re-examine just how over-done a lot of fine furniture really is, if you're trying to strip down to what's really useful.
And, for myself, I can't help but want to build this stuff.
The 'Useful Stuff at the End' section feels less like an appendix, and more like a place to put a few spare parts that didn't fit in with the final layout of the book. He talks about how PVA glue has short-changed the world, and why hide glue is so much better. He talks about scrubbed finishes, and soap finishes. Simple, safe, healthy, and sustainable ways to keep a piece maintained. And other bits and pieces. But these short blurbs are also useful devices for bringing up some very serious complaints with the way things have been made in recent years. Not only are things so poorly made, they're hard to maintain, and almost impossible to repair. Between chapter 99, and this last section, my impression was that of a curtain being pulled aside, just for a moment, and getting an incomplete glimpse of what drove him to put this book together.
Once upon a time, I was a North Bennet student, selling tools at Rockler, and then Woodcraft. And I was frustrated and pissed off about how much money it was taking people, just get into dabbling in woodworking, about how much of it either wasn't helpful, wasn't entirely necessary, or helped the aspiring woodworker to assume that they were out of their depth. I really loved The Anarchist's Tool Chest, because it stripped most of those things down for the average beginner: 'You need these things, you don't need those, and for god's sake, don't worry about that stuff. It's crap.' (That's my one-sentence summary, that does the book a grave disservice, but it's more palatable than "STFU and go read it already.") It was a great book that provided guidelines for a solid tool kit, and a good exercise or two, to help the newcomer get to understand their tools.
I feel like this book has gone a step further. Because he's now stripped away a lot of techniques that aren't necessarily needed, either. No dovetailed boxes, no rectilinear mortise and tenon work, no embellishment. The 'joinery' when there is any, is only used when structurally necessary, and it's bombproof. The finished pieces are proof that this philosophy of design can still produce comfortable, attractive pieces, even in the hands of someone who's just starting out. And nothing encourages progress like success. With luck, he'll also shoo away some of the tire-kickers who will step up to a Goddard highboy and first want to see how sloppy his dovetails were, ignoring completely the sense of proportion, or the quality of the piece as a whole.
In short, I think Schwarz has jumped from 'making it easier to get into woodworking,' to 'making it easier to build durable, useful furniture.' There are times when I'm tempted to joke that his next book will feature a series of boulders, but the truth is that Schwarz has managed to take the philosophy of 'make things as simple as possible, and no simpler,' to a long-forgotten level. A simpler tool kit, a simpler set of techniques, and furniture that, to be plain, will be easier to live with and maintain.
So... STFU and go read it, already.
*re: The loss of the craft: The rise of maker-spaces, and the upsurge in
people wanting to make things, is ample proof that the spirit of craft
is very much alive and well. Some of them are into woodworking. True, I
find it sad to think that the world may never see the likes of the
Seymours, or the Roentgen shop again. But the truth is, they were a very
limited and isolated subset, of a subset of elite craftsmen, who
happened to be positioned to sell amazing things to royalty, for a
ransom. And there are still subsets of elites, selling remarkable things
to royalty, making anything from furniture to bicycles, sports cars and
motorcycles to airplanes and who knows what's next, timber frame homes
or over-the-top yachts... Or even just really good food. Anyone who
thinks that intelligent craftsmanship is dying, either hasn't been
paying attention, or probably wants to have inspiration fed idly to them
on a spoon.
I got into woodworking seriously in the summer of 2004,
when I took my first workshop at North Bennet Street School. My last commission
wrapped up about 10 years later. In that time, I worked for
Rockler, and Woodcraft. I went through North Bennet. And then 7
years of running my own business, during which time I got to make some really cool custom
furniture for some very nice people. All in all, not a bad run.
Almost two years later, I've had a couple of abortive attempts to reboot this
blog, and finish talking about that last project... and a couple of others. But it's slowly turned into one of those things I keep meaning to
get around to, and feel bad that I haven't... and I think that means it's time to tie it off, for now.
My writing about woodworking started out on Woodcentral.com, and morphed into this thing you're reading now. Along the way, I ran into a guy named Chris Schwarz, and talked about my experiences selling over-rated newfangled widgets while I was learning traditional craftsmanship at school. He told me I should write a book. I wrote a lot of material, but the real point of the book kept getting away from me, and it never came together. Maybe it'll crystallize now, who knows. But I can't thank Chris enough for his encouragement.
If anybody asked me what's the most important lesson that I've learned, I'd be split.
Lesson number one in the shop has always been that the fundamentals are fundamental, and every time I revisited things like sharpening, planning/ drafting, process, layout, and accuracy, my work improved by leaps and bounds.
But as important as I think the fundamentals are, I think it's equally important to stay inspired, and aspire to always try to build something that's just beyond your grasp.
If I was going to send someone on a guided tour of woodworking awesomeness, it would start with names like Greene and Greene, Chippendale, Sheraton, Townsend, Goddard, John and Thomas Seymour. Some of the designs and work from these men were the ego pieces that I aspired to when I was in school. I think I'd include a sampling of British campaign furniture... and Japanese Tansu. (stacking, and step-chests) More recent American designer/ builders like Wharton Esherick, George (and now Mira) Nakashima, Sam Maloof, and even Wendell Castle would be on the list. I think it's really important to learn about Chinese furniture joinery, because it makes the humble dovetail joint look like finger paint, and about the work of the Roentgen shop, which is simply astonishing. Those would have to be on the tour as well.
(To be fair to the rest of us, The Roentgen shop had something like 200 craftsmen in house, working in a variety of disciplines, from joiners to marqueters, and including people casting and chasing the absolutely gorgeous metalwork, and they had clockmakers on retainer to build some of the mechanical niftiness. They also violated a lot of guild guidelines in the process.)
I do wish that the glossy rags would focus on work like that a little more, just once in a while, even if it was only a review of an exhibit at a prominent museum. I think it's important for people to understand just what heights human ingenuity and skill were able to achieve, without electricity. I think that would put more recent work in proper perspective.
But then there's other work by craftsmen like Sidney Barnsley... or Garry Knox
Bennet. I find Barnsley's work to be utterly visceral, and it grabs me in a way that the American Arts and Crafts designs don't. And when I hear or read from hobbyists who are taking themselves too seriously, I really want to see how they'd react to Garry Knox Bennet. It took me the better part of a year or two to realize that I just... love his work. It's powerful and whimsical, colorful, and it doesn't take itself too seriously.
And if I wanted to say anything with this blog to date, it's that I think that it's important to both aspire, and to not take yourself too seriously. John Ruskin made the point in his writing that only a craftsman who can forgive himself for his mistakes will be able to reach greater heights. Nobody's perfect, and I think we're all capable of a lot more than we realize.
I'm in Florida this week, working through the lab component of a course in orthotics. (Long story.)
We wrapped up this afternoon, I went back to the hotel, and wandered out to grab some food. Along the way, I stopped to browse at an antique/collectible consignment place. In short, it's a basically a big space, subdivided into areas and cabinets, that they lease out to people who want to sell their vintage things. I went through a variety of emotions, walking through the place.
The place had just about everything. Vintage middle class furniture, in fair shape, considering what it was. A lot of tchotchkes. A lot of colored glassware that was etched or cast. Wooden models of jet airplanes. Matchbox cars, switchblade knives, broken woodworking tools, old books, (but not old good books... mostly dime store novels, cookbooks, and other miscellaneous drek) and so on. Notable stand-outs included:
-A complete set of commemorative Pepsi cans, each with a portrait of some character from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; in a protective metal box, yet.
-An entire cabinet of Nazi memorabilia. (?!?)
-A cabinet of colored glass skulls, plastic neon skeletons, and other high-school-goth accessories.
...And so much more. It was like they had taken the contents of so many old homes, and dumped them here in the hopes of getting pennies on the dollar.
And I walked around, and walked around, and went from curiosity, to horror (Ew! Nazi shit! WTF?!?) to frustration that people have such a tendency to collect garbage... and then to sadness, when something finally hit me.
I've been to open-coffin funerals before. And it's hard, seeing a body lying there, without a soul. And what was so hard about this collection of oddities was that it was basically the reverse: This store was filled with people's souls, left behind after the body had gone. Some of the collections were so clearly treasured items: Original boxes had wear and tear from passing through the years, but were in good enough condition that someone had obviously cared. Some were of sub-genres that clearly represented genuine interests for people. Even the Nazi shit.
I read somewhere that the point of having a religious altar isn't to offer worship to a divine being, it's to honor the things that you value in yourself. Because the things we think about become such an integral part of our reality, it's critical to have a special place to set aside, to hold and honor what you think is important. For some folks that can be a curio cabinet, or a shelf, or a room, or an entire house.
I remember when my mother was packing up her house, years ago, she was clearly struggling with the value she saw in everything. Almost everything had a story, a place in her life, or a special significance that nobody else would perceive, because they don't know the stories. Nobody else would remember that great-grandma thought this plastic pineapple was a big deal, because brass pineapples used to be a sign of good taste... and nobody had had the heart to tell great-grandma at the time, that the thing was plastic. Little stories like that, that add to the perceived value of the things that get left behind, that are part and parcel of the nature of our souls. Proof of life, that someone had once lived, and thought that this... thing... whatever it was, had value, of some kind, even if it was only to you.
It made me take a long look at what I think is important about woodwork, and building furniture: The hook that gets put in the water for so many people is, "This is heirloom quality. We're making it well, and making it right, so that future generations will..."
Future generations will... what? What will they do with it?
That was the question I was forced to ask myself, walking around in this anti-museum, made up of other people's lives, now on sale. Comic books and matchbox cars, and things that someone thought, for whatever misguided reason, would retain their value, or even appreciate. Things like Jar-Jar on a Pepsi can.
When I make things, I try to do the best I can to make things that will stand the test of time... if that's what is asked of them, anyway. It's cool to think that maybe, something I make would merit a place of honor in someone's collection, or even in a museum. (That's the North Bennet in me, I guess...) But the other side of working with wood then becomes an issue of "What are we leaving behind?"
I think that for a lot of people who make things for family, they get to leave a part of their own soul behind for the ones they love. And that's really important. I very much want to leave things behind for my family, to show them that I love them, and to show them what human hands are capable of, even in an automated, Minimum-Viable-Product world. I very much want to leave objects behind that tell anyone who will listen, to aspire.
But the more I turned all of this around in my head, the more I really saw with open eyes how much utter drek gets left behind. And I really, really, began to embrace my desire for minimalism. Maybe the finest objects aren't always called for, and we just need things that work well, and function as reliably as a hammer. They don't need to be fancy, they just need to work for as long as they can, and be put to a more dignified death than some of the pieces I saw today, even if it's just to burn them for warmth. Kind of like shop jigs, for the home...
I'm still wrestling with this, and doing so on minimal sleep. But I'd love to hear what people think about this in the comments.
I continued on my way to go and get food. But, cursed by geography, the nearest place to get groceries was a Wal-Mart. And they were doing their under-paid best, to get people to buy more worthless crap for the holidays.
It really made me want to hate everything, for as long as I was stuck in that Wal-Mart.
At this point in the series around radius cutting, we have a very reliable way to cut a convex or concave part. But making an accurate cut in woodworking is usually dependent on accurate layout. And so this entry will cover some of the results of my head-scratching on the topic. Coming from a straight and square world, some things transfer, and some don't.
As with part 2, it bears mentioning up front that this is NOT the way I'd do things in a one-off environment, or in a typical production environment. I went off the reservation a little bit, away from the job at hand, and into the realm of obsessive curiosity and experiment, in the hopes that it would make this particular project roll more smoothly into limited production.
The photo above is a simple beam compass made with some T-track and scraps, a screw, and a modified X-Acto knife: I ground the knife to something close to a 90 degree point, for durability. This is the curved version of a marking gauge, for my purposes: Among other things, I wanted a mark that would positively engage with the brad point of my drill bits when I went to drill the holes for the locating pins.
Note that I set the beam compass up with the blade at the end, and the pivot point in the interior of the beam. I learned to do that years ago. It allows me to rest the weight of the assembly on the point, and I can teeter the thing as needed to put only the desired pressure on the marking end. This is something I learned with pencil beam compasses, to keep from breaking leads or digging into the paper. It helps a lot here, too, for controlling the cut. (A look at vintage compasses will reveal a shoulder on the pivot point,
to keep it from digging too far into the paper. This supports the weight
while the compass pivots, so the point doesn't just gouge in.)
When I set the radius, I do so with a good Starrett machinist's scale, as the graduations are etched, and the points (point of the knife, pivot point) will both register.
"Why?" Is an obvious question. Why make such a fuss over precision? The arch on the clock is free-floating, as it were, and doesn't connect to or reference against anything. There are no reference edges. The answer, in part, is that the locating pins for the radius jig needed to be precisely placed, and I used the scribed arc to register my brad point bits when I set up to drill the holes. Another answer is that when it comes time to connect to the three-way miters, every advantage helps.
Back to work...
At this point in the project, with the concave part of a bending form in hand, I needed a mating convex part to use in the laminating proces. (I'm not using a vacuum press here.) And, to make matters more complicated than they needed to be, I wanted to make that part using the scraps that I had from cutting the concave part.
It occurred to me that for a bending form, I just wanted to take a certain amount off of the edge of the scraps, to account for the thickness of the part being laminated. If I had access to the geometric center, I'd use a compass to find the radius of the blank, subtract the amount I wanted to cut off, and lay out that way. But I didn't have access to the center. On a straight and
square board, you can measure from a straight edge, at any point along the
edge, to make a parallel cut. But in this case, there's no straight edge to reference against. But eventually it occurred to me that a center finding head will allow you to measure in from the edge pretty reliably, to lay out a concentric curve without knowing what the radius is. The blade will point towards the geometric center of the arch, and allow you to measure from the outside in, perpendicularly to the tangent line... which isn't the way I was taught to work with circles, so it bent my head for a minute. That's just a way to measure, it's not the same thing as laying out with a real marking gauge. But I found I could use it to guide a marking knife concentrically around the curve, and lay out that way. This really only works accurately for circular curves, but it turned out to be a pretty neat trick.
In the picture, you'll also see an arch with a labeled radius. That's one of my radius gauges.
At some point, it became clear that gauging a perfectly concentric arch off of a radius of unknown dimension wouldn't give me the precise results I was after. I needed an arch with a known radius, (radius gauge) to at least make sure the line I'd drawn was at the desired radius. This was when I made the beam compass. With a gauged line, you can see when you've accurately hit your mark. With the jig on the router table, I could fine tune the adjustments well enough to split the mark. (You can see when the knife mark remains in the edge you've just cut.) It's probably not precise enough for a machinist, but it was good enough for me.
Another interesting bit: Without knowing the radius of the edge of this blank up front, using the radius gauge and a center finding head allows me to get a reasonable measurement of the radius anyway. Using the center finding head, I can check to make sure the radius gauge is positioned concentrically. From there, I can measure from the outer edge of the radius gauge, to the outer edge of the curved blank to find out the difference in radii, and go from there.
The outer radius on the arch above (R= 10 1/4") corresponds to a pair of holes on the scissor jig, where the mounting pins drop through. The inner curve corresponds to the next set of holes, (9 9/32" *) which are the holes I used on the jig for this operation. (You can see this in the pictures.) Those holes are centered at a 9 9/32" radius from the center of the pivot pin on the jig. So this was a necessary dimension to gauge where to drill the new holes, for the convex part of the bending form. The arch was an aide to help me make sure that my layout was accurate.
From there, I could set up the drill press to drill symmetrically placed holes...
The holes let me make a concentric cut on the band saw...
...and make the finish pass on the router table.
As Mark had observed, I'd wandered pretty far away from paying work while I was tinkering with this. But as I was tinkering, a lot of things jumped out at me, all at
once, about navigating curves, and I dove head-first into the rabbit hole.
It's one thing to understand the geometry of a circle on paper; radii,
diameter, calculating chord lengths, etc.. It's something else entirely
to be able to create those things in a physical object. It's not a
matter of being able to calculate what the measurements should be, it's a
matter of being able to cut to those dimensions, and be able to
refine the cut to course-correct as needed. This all began to feel like I was
learning to lay things out and plan the process in a whole new way, so I steamed straight on ahead.
There's gold in those hills, if you look for it. But one of the things
I've learned recently from Mark Twain, is that getting the ore out is
one thing, but nobody tells you that refining and smelting the ore is a
wholly separate process, and the finished product can sometimes be smaller than what you think you dug up. Between the beam compass, radius gauges, etc, I burned up a solid day or so in tinkering. The nuggets were pretty shiny, but the final take-away was maybe not as big as I'd hoped. I'm still digesting what
it all means, but I have no doubt that it will turn up in future work, when I
that the point of departure for all of this was my frustration with more primitive methods of cutting curves, I can say that I went a
LONG way towards easing those frustrations, and cutting curves is a lot simpler and more precise for me now than it used to be.
You can see by the shadows above that the sun was getting low on the horizon by the time I had this worked out.
But the bending form came out cleanly...
And the finished part did, too.
Again, a lot of this is tantamount to driving From Boston to Connecticut, by way of Tokyo. (Which is clearly accomplished by driving a very over-thought car, with re-invented wheels.) Making a bending form is NOT a complicated task, and certainly doesn't call for this degree of caffeine-fueled head scratching. But then again, there are jigs that will come up later on that wouldn't have worked without some of the groundwork laid here.
note, I wanted to add in here that the MFT was a really remarkable layout
aide. Using dogs in the hole grid gave me a way to register parts
against each other, or to hold and clamp them at a reliable 90 degrees
to each other. I don't think that's enough of a reason to buy an MFT, but
if you have one, it's reason enough to invest in some qwas dogs.
* 10 1/4", 9 9/32"... the radii on the jig seem bizarre, I know. I drilled the holes at 1" intervals along the beam,
but the geometry of the dog-leg feature meant that the angles to the mounting holes were constantly changing,
and the radii didn't end up working out to be 'regular' intervals. I'm sure it's possible to design and build a jig to have more 'even' sounding numbers, but at some point, it really becomes academic... or, more academic than this already is. Laying out a part to be cut with this system, means laying out the final radius with a compass, and laying out the concentric radius along which the locating pins would be placed, to make the jig work the way it's designed to. So, I had to measure the actual radii, from the center to the holes on the beams, to be able to lay them out... and the actual numbers ended up being weird ones.
the photo, we have sliding center point jigs for the band saw, and for
the router table: A dog-leg scissors jig (foreground, on the right) mounts to a
blank, using non-threaded pins, to guide the blank while cutting inside or outside radii. There's a center pin that forms the pivot for the scissor jig, that protrudes from the bottom of the jig, and drops into a hole in the mating part of the radius jig, of which there are two: one that mounts to the jigsaw, one to the router table.
The first test for the jig was to make a pile of MDF layers that would stack up into a bending form. And this is as good a place as any to point out that this particular jig isn't the standard, or smart way to accomplish the task. So I'll also confess here to being a little too cerebral. Mark
wandered over, asked what I was up to, and pointedly remarked that I
was doing things in 'long-hand.' And he was right. There are many ways
to skin this particular cat, and almost all of them are much more
efficient. His suggestion (based on much more experience than I have) was to cut one master curve, and pattern-rout the rest from that. But I wanted to see this experiment through, and
see if the long-hand proof would result in something that would save me
time down the road. I also figured that this particular exercise would test the system, to see how
robust it was.
Center hole and center pin are at the bottom right.
the jig for cutting radii in either direction (inside or outside) is
pretty simple. Because the base jig slides, and the scissor jig has so
many holes, it's easy to find a setting that will work for any radius.
But for the purposes of identical parts, mounting pin placement in the blank
was an X-factor. The holes for the pins are drilled at identical
distances from the center, but the distance between pins is also
relevant. Once the arc is laid out to locate the mounting pins, you can
drill anywhere along that arc to locate the pins. But two identically shaped blanks with holes drilled at two
different chord lengths will
result in two differently shaped parts: The cuts made will have identical radii, but the cut will be placed differently in each blank. It was one of those details that's obvious in
hindsight, but still made me scratch my head for a minute. Since the
object is to create a bending form, all of the layers must be identical,
so pin placement needs to be the same on all of them.
laid out the first blank, and set up the pin holes to be exactly the
same distance from each side, and from the front edge, and drilled them
using a fence and a stop block. Drill, flip, drill, and the result is
two holes with identical spacing from each end, and the edge.
To the band saw, and then to the router table...
I'd used a smooth pin, loosely installed in a hole to hold the center. I
switched to a threaded bolt that ended in a smooth pin, because there
was too much slop in the radius with just the loose pin. It made
for a difference of maybe 1/64"- 1/32" from one radius to the next. But for a bending form, everything has to be exactly the same.
For the record, this was just about when Mark made the comment about doing things longhand, and flush
trimming being faster for a bending form. Obviously, he was right. But I was being stubborn, and wanted to see just how accurate the jig was. Basically, I was reinventing the wheel, for the fun of it.
the slop issue ironed out, the final stack was just about perfect.
There were inconsistencies that I could feel, but they were small enough
to fix with a plane. It felt a little bit like cheating, since I was
trying so hard to make the the jig accurate enough to not need to smooth
All things considered, it's a very accurate system.
The fact that I can re-adjust the center point and take a second pass on a radius cut sets this jig apart from other jigs that I've seen. And for production purposes, it
means I can creep up on a very accurate radius for a master pattern, or
on a wooden part. And with the incorporation of the router table in the process, I can use this jig to make a finished
curved surface that's ready for sanding, without any further work.
3 will go into a little more theory on dealing with radii. The bending form is a
2 part form, so it will have a mating piece. But cutting that means
taking the convex off-cuts from the concave form, with identical but
unknown radii, and finding a way to locate the mounting pins to change
top of the Auto-Regulator is curved, and tapers in thickness. Most of
the methods I've seen for cutting a radius involve driving a screw
through the center, and using that as a pivot point. And that works well
enough for many things. But in this case, I'm working not only with two
different radii, but with two different
centers. And that starts to get sticky.
all of the curves I have to cut into the blank, I need to start with
12/4 stock. The end result will be an arch with a 7.5" inner radius, and
an outer radius of 11.5". Using the screw through the center technique,
I'd want some extra material to contain said center hole. To use the
simple, drill a screw into it method of curve cutting, I'd need to drill
a center hole through a 12/4 beam that would have to be at least 12-13"
wide enough to also contain the center. The finished part would be 15"
long, and could be contained within a 7" wide board. There's enough
waste involved in cutting an arch, without adding 6" of width to a 15"
long blank of 12/4 walnut, just for the sake of locating the center. 13"
wide 12/4 walnut isn't exactly rare, but it's not exactly lying around,
either. And it's certainly not cheap.
A side note: Not
only would the above method be incredibly wasteful, but a 6" x 15"
blank would also fit squarely into that sweet spot on the Venn diagram
of 'I can't throw this out, it's too big,' and 'I'll probably never
actually use this.' And that's a recipe for hoarding scraps.
Added to that, I had this hair-brained idea of making a rough cut on the band
saw, and then moving directly to the router table with the same jig, for a finish pass.
so it was that I set out to untangle radiused cuts (inside and outside
radii) on pieces that aren't wide enough to contain the pivot point...
and a few other things.
cutting that Ive seen involves driving a screw through the geometrical
center, into a precisely placed hole on the jig that's the proper
distance from the
cutting action. But the screws are usually short, it's almost
impossible sometimes to see where you're supposed to be driving it
into... and it never really felt like an accurate method. Not only that,
it doesn't allow for subsequent fine tuning: I can always take 1/16"
off of a straight part on the table saw. But I can't do that with the
wood screw technique for curve cutting. Especially not if the relevant
dimension is the concave side of the cut, because the process involves
cutting away the center of the curve. In that case, you just have to
make a new blank, and cut a new piece.
So I simplified things. Or, it could be argued, made them more complicated, to make them more simple.
The base mounts to the band
saw table. And on top of that is a sliding dovetailed piece, to adjust for different radii, with two options for
pivot centers: a removable pin that sticks up, to be used with a 1/4" hole, and a
1/4" brass shelf pin sleeve that serves as a bushing for a center that
will be seen shortly. The pin started out as a 1/4-20 bolt that was only
partially threaded. I cut it off, chucked it up in a hand drill, and
domed the end with a bench grinder.
Making the cut on the band saw is as simple as I assumed it would be.
I said, I also wanted to be able to make finishing passes on the router
table. The jig below is a sliding mount for two more centers, as on the
band saw. The idea is that I should be able to set up whatever jig I'm
going to use, and move directly from the band saw to the router table.
of the problem I had with cutting an inside radius with the traditional
screw-center method is that you only get one shot. After that, if the
radius isn't quite big enough, you no longer have a center to work from,
because you've just removed the concave part, from the center that was
your reference point. I came up with the idea of a scissoring pair of
arms to mount to a blank, and the only problem I had then, was that I'd
cut right through the arms when I used it. So, I came up with this:
1/4" bolts cut off into pins. The pins slide through the jig, into 1/4"
holes that are laid out and precisely drilled in the blank. The dog-leg
shape is there to give clearance for the blade to exit the material
without cutting into the arms of the jig. And, the pin being used for
the pivot point slides into the brass bushing in the band saw jig, or
the router table jig.So the whole pivoting assembly can be simply lifted
off of the band saw table, and dropped onto the router table for a
Coming up: laying out the mounting holes, using the jig to make a bending form, and a few other things...