Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm a believer

So, I went into the shop on Saturday with a box of new goodies. New guides, and a very new blade from Laguna.

I've read about Laguna's guides, and how accurate and simple they are. And they are simple... and they seem to do a damn fine job, with very little fussing. I was impressed. Move along...

The next thing I installed was the Laguna "resaw king" blade. It's the most over the top band saw blade I've ever seen. Instead of being made out of one single strip of metal, with milled teeth that are set very widely, it's got carbide teeth, and the blade material itsel is much thinner than normal. Out of the package it felt and looked different. But that alone really didn't adequately prepare me for what happened.

Most band saw cuts are pretty ragged and rough, and it's expected that there will be some smoothing and so forth afterwards, either with the jointer and planer, or with a very large pile of very coarse sandpaper. But the cuts I got from this blade were smoother than anything I've ever seen come out of the planer. And really, they may not have even needed sanding. I mean, very smooth... ridiculously smooth.

Combined with the new guides, the saw was cutting very straight and square. (As compared to most band saws, which drift a little in one direction or another.) So, I squared up the fence, and gave it a whirl. I started cutting thin pieces, and finally would down by cutting some very, very thin pieces, that are essentially like veneer... and they're thin enough for light to get through.

No, the blade is NOT cheap, by any means. But I do think it's a justfiable expense. The new setup cuts smoothly and squarely enough that it will save a lot of time that would otherwise be spent jointing, planing, and/or sanding, on every single operation. That's a lot of time saved.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Woodworking versus 'artist in wood' and other artsy-fartsy pretensions...

So, I just got off the phone with a potential client. His family homestead barn came down, and he salvaged some of the boards and timbers from the thing. Wanting to keep them alive and useful, he's trying to find a project that will allow him to put the wood to good use. In my mind, I think this is a really cool project on his part, because I think it would be a really good thing to be able to take a part of something in one's history, and make a lasting object out of it, if for no other reason than so that you (in this case, I'm using the rhetorical 'you,'... for some reason, I'm very much feeling my english major background right now.) ... so that you can look at the object, and know that part of your past has been recaptured, and kept in a way that is still useful.

I know so many people who keep random bits and scraps of things, but in no structured, useful, or meaningful order. So I think it would be really great for this guy to be able to say "Yes, I made this out of wood that I salvaged from my family's old barn." I get that, it gives me the warm fuzzies, and that's really cool.

And I could hear it in his voice as we were talking, because it was clear that he wanted to be able to build the thing, but didn't have all the equipment, and might not have all of the skills necessary to finish the job. So I told him that my goal was to give him what he wanted... a finished project that had as much of himself as he was able to put into it, and that I would help him get as far as he wanted to with that goal in mind.

"That's really great... I had no idea," he said "if that was going to be ok with you, or how much of it you really wanted to be able to finish yourself."

I think that's one of the distinguishing characteristics between work as a woodworker, versus work as a custom furniture builder. I know, and have talked to, many woodworkers who either wouldn't take the job, or would want to finish it up themselves, to show off their own capabilities. I'm not so filled with my own self-importance on that score. My goal, as I continue to see it, is to help people realize the vision they have in their mind, and to get the thing they have in their mind to be realized... not just to sell my own work. So I think this project is going to be really cool.

Obviously, I'll post pictures as the thing unfolds.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Small stuff.

So, I've been reasonably busy with small projects.

One project is a pair of platforms for someone who wanted their cat to be able to look into their window and let them know she wanted to come in... but I call them plant stands, because cat stands just sounds a bit perverse. And that cat doesn't seem to like me very much anyway.

Still, it was a good excuse to play with the bandsaw, and practice fancy joinery, as seen in the photo. Chris and Don wanted to know what the inspiration was, and I honestly don't know, but it's clear that I've spent way too much time reading about timber framing, and Japanese joinery.

The other project is a bookcase that I'm still in the middle of, and wishing I'd chosen a more stable wood. It's going to be a painted bookcase, so I went with poplar, but the wood has been cranky, and it's been trying to twist on me. Last thing I need is a twisted bookcase, so we'll see how it turns out. I'll post pictures once it's looking better. Part of the problem is probably being caused by the fact that I resawed the boards out of a larger plank, and I should have known, looking at the grain, that this part of the tree had been a little stressed out over the course of its life, so it was bound to be a little odd inside. Still, I think it's working out so far. And the good news is that the resawing part went well, thanks to the little rolling table I made a few weeks ago.

Lastly, I decided recently that while shop efficiencies generally dictate the use of machines to get things done, I really want to keep my hand tool skills well honed, so I've started doing night-time "after hours" projects. The first project is basically a regression for me. It's a small (12"x12"x18") chest of drawers, modeled after a small tool chest that I built years ago in a workshop at North Bennet. I started it on Wednesday night, and by Thursday night I got the dovetails for the carcase finished, and the dadoes for drawer dividers cut. So I was able to do the glue-up on Thursday night. This box is from the wonkiest of the poplar left over from the bookcase job, (hence the pile of clamps in the picture, to hold it all straight and square during the glue up) and it's really just an over-wrought exercise in cutting dovetails. Still, it'll keep me out of trouble for a few more days, and be one more thing to put up in the portfolio, so it's not a completely wasted effort. And, it'll be a place to put stuff. You know, stuff? Then it's on to chair building experiments and tables... so stay tuned.