Monday, June 21, 2010

General update... bench projects on the way.

As I've mentioned in the last two posts, my hand skills are in need of a serious dusting off. So, one of the solutions is to start doing a little bit of work at home. Once I'm done with the current project, and make more progress on the chess table refinishing, I'm going to be making a small bench for use at home.

It should be an interesting project to write about, for several reasons. First and most obvious, I'm a woodworking geek, and there's just something about building a workbench that just gets me going. I'm going to have to flex my creative muscles, because I want to make the bench out of material I already have on hand, rather than splurging on new lumber or hardware. That may sound a little misleading, since I have a fair amount of nice lumber on hand. This isn't going to be a budget bench, or built out of scraps, and the vise will come from one of my benches at the shop. But the other reason that the project will be possibly interesting to home-bound hobbyists is that the at home context adds a few complications.

This is going to be a short bench: it's not going to be longer than 4.5 feet, if it's that long. For most work, that should still be enough space, but it's still smaller than I'm used to taking up. I've been taking my time with the design to make sure it's as useful as possible, with minimal wasted space. Since space is at a premium, I'm going to include built-in tool storage. It's not clear yet whether or not that element will be completed in the shop, or at home. I'm guessing home,  since building drawers is a good skills building exercise, but we'll see.

Because this will be at home, I want the bench to look pretty nice. No, I'm not planning on serving dinner on it or anything, but it'll be located in the entryway just inside my front door. If I have clients come by to visit, I want them to be immediately impressed. The top will be laminated out of maple that I have on hand. The frame will be built with some cherry that I've had around for a while. I'm planning to use some wedged tusk tenons to tighten up the stretchers, as a decorative element; no exposed nuts and bolts. (Not that it's hard to hide nuts and bolts, but this seemed like a more elegant solution to holding the frame together.)

In other bench building news, I'll also be reworking my bench in the shop. The short of it is that I've decided I want a longer and thicker bench surface that will accommodate the Emmert vise I've been sitting on for over a year now. This winter's chair-building exercises have sold me on its virtues, and it's time to put it to good use.

For the serious geeks who check in periodically and want to know, the influences on the home bench will be taken from Chris Schwartz' book, mixed with some Shaker sensibilities and a few other ideas. The new bench at the shop will probably have some serious French influences.

...and a few more...

I had a few hours to kill, so I headed up to the shop again today to cut some more dovetails. The project is at a standstill until I get the 2 drawers cut, but because it's been so long, I really want to make sure I can still cut good drawers by hand. The most recent sets were very promising. Not super-perfect, but nice and tight, no blowouts, no real issues... but there were still some (very small) gaps. I only had time to cut 2 full joints before the real world called me away, but I'm reassured that my hand skills have not completely dissipated over the past year.

Just as a goof, I used two different saws this time... a Japanese style saw for one of the joints, and a euro-style saw that was made for me by Adam Cherubini. The question I was asking myself when I decided to do this, had to do with the fact that I used Japanese saws pretty exclusively through school, and on most of my projects since then. But somewhere along the line, I picked up a couple of smaller dovetail saws, just to expand my skill range. So, the thought I had was that maybe the sloppiness the other day was due to the fact that I wasn't using the (more familiar) Japanese style. Short answer: nope. Just out of practice.

I have enough of my practice wood to cut a few more practice rounds before I make these drawers, and deliver the final product, after which I'll talk more about it. It's intended to be a surprise, which is why I haven't given much in the way of details.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Been a while

It's been a hard year. Survivable, and I know I'm not alone, but still hard.

Survivable is the key word in that last sentence, as evidenced by the fact that I'm slowly getting more shop time in. And just the other night, I was able to get in and chop some dovetails.

I have 2 drawers to cut for the current project, but it's been over a year since I've cut any. That's a little bit disheartening to think about, but it's true. So, I feel thankful that I had the presence of mind to cut some practice ones first. And based on the results, I think I'll be cutting a few more before touching the real ones.

The issues may not be readily apparent in a small picture, but they're there, and I need to sharpen my skills some more.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

MMMMMM... wormy

So, I was up in the shop the other day, trimming the ends off of a laminated maple top for a project I'm working on. It's solid maple, and plenty thick, so I made the rough cuts to length at my bench with a worm drive circ saw. Buried the blade to full depth in the maple block, and it just kept chugging.

I really love worm drive saws. Not a whole lot of use for them on a daily basis, but man do they have power.