Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Back on that Horse...

So, today I did my first woodworking in the shop since 10:45am on September 19th last year. I installed the splitter (device that keeps the wood you're cutting on the table saw from kicking back, which is how I cut my finger off). It only took five minutes. As my fellow woodworkers know, it's a huge pain. It's in the way when you try to measure the width of every cut (so I'm resorting to using the tape on the saw), and it can only be used for cuts greater than 1-1/2" wide (otherwise the push stick won't fit through. I've yet to see how it works with the dado blade (table saw blade that cuts from 1/8" to 3/4" wide groove).

Anyhoo, the project I'm working on is a small, removeable mantle for our fireplace. I'm using an aluminum bracket to mount it to the wall (french cleat). It's 5' wide, and an L-shape that's 8"x8". I'm going to use a box joint to glue the two pieces at right angles (think interlocking fingers) all the way down. There will be a bracket on each end to lend strength and support. The panel against the wall will be a panel in the true Arts & Crafts style. Here's my drawing:

To give you an idea of what it's going to look like, here's my buddy Schroeder's from mantle. Mine will be sort of an upside down version of it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Craftsman Dining Room Set - In The Beginning...

So, I've got my girlfriend's permission to start working on our new dining room set. I've done a ton of research, and for me, Schroeder hit the nail right on the head. He's been extremely helpful with suggestions, suggested reading, and tool purchases to make the process go smoother. I will build his table. I'm still researching the chairs, but the Rodel chair is high in the running. I'm hoping to knock out the table in the next month, and the chairs this winter. I will be blogging about the entire project here, and concurrently on my regular woodworking blog Skully's Workshop.

For those of you who may not know, I cut my middle finger off last September, so I'm just getting back into the shop. I will blog about that separately, but please put your splitters back on for any cuts that will allow it.

I've taken some time to draw up the table in AutoCAD (SketchUp still eludes me). I designed my table using the Golden Mean, so the top is 72 x 44.5 (ratio = 1.618) with Greene & Greene style breadboard ends. It'll be 30 high. I tucked the underbody in 12 on each end and 6 along the sides. The legs are 4 square, and I will be making all four sides quartersawn. The whole table will be quartersawn white oak, and I'm trying to figure out how to anhydrous ammonia (29%) fume the whole thing without getting busted for running a meth lab.

Here are the drawings. I can provide dimensions as needed, but they were omitted for clarity:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

9.5 Outta 10 Ain't Bad...

"Virgil Briggman is back on the air...", "Good morning Vietnam!", and all that crap. So, I'm sitting here waiting for my double-dose of Percocet to kick in, I thought I'd sneak in my first blog in a while. As you may or may not know, I had a little "industrial accident" in the shop Friday morning.
That roughly translates to cutting my middle f'ing finger off (I'm already qualified to be a high school shop teacher). Luckily, it was still hanging by a little flap of skin, so I didn't have to go through the agony of looking for it.

I was in the process of milling 2" legs for the matching night stands that will complete our bedroom suite. Anyhoo, I was doing something relatively safe, and something I do all the time. I use 4/4 stock to do all my glue ups, since thicker stuff is more expensive, and I think it's a little more environmentally responsible. I'm modifying the plans to beef up the leg thickness to give it a much more substantial, antique look, that worked really well on the dresser. So Friday morning, I was ripping my blanks to 2+ inches, so they could be jointed and planed down to their finished thickness/width. I was actually thinking about safety as I was pushing the
4+ inch wide, 2+ inch thick board along the rip fence. Halfway through
4+ 4+
the board I grabbed the push stick to finish the cut with my right hand safely out of the way. For some reason, at the very end of the board, maybe I torqued it by not having enough lateral force fom the push stick.
Whatever the cause, I don't have anti-kickback rollers or a splitter installed, so that's my bad. Anyway, the board shot back toward me, missing my ribcage (thank god I always allow kickback clearance) and somehow drug my hand back with it. With the way my hand had contorted because of the kickback, my middle finger took the brunt. I thought my ring finger got compressed and was broken, but it turned out that my index snapped. There's also a nice gash on my thumb that took my thumbnail off, along with the bone tip. All in all, a pretty gruesome sight. I haven't had the guts to look at any pics (which I was thoughtful enough to insist on) or the x-rays, which we might've actually stolen. Always thinking about the blog!

After emitting a scream that elicited from the depths of my soul when I saw my finger flopping loosely, I calmly took control of the situation by clamping my right hand around my wrist and getting Kim to stop doing her decapitated chicken dance. We put the remains of my hand in a bag of ice, and tied a tea-towel around my wrist. Kim managed to beep the car and I was able to just barely crawl into the passenger side before blacking out, which would've been a major problem for Kim to get me into the car by herself.

There were typical communication issues with the various medical personnel we encountered. Somebody asked where my finger was. I said "In the bag".
The discrepancy caused Kim to have to go home and look for more parts. They kept changing their minds on which digits were involved. The shots into the base of each digit were excruciating. They kept asking me silly questions like name, age and pain rated from 1-10. Some bookkeeping yutz came out and immediately started discussing financing options, while I was mentally preparing myself to be an amputee.

Another ambulance ride, and I was in Stanford. I won't bore you with any additional details, but some of the highlights were "F**k Seth Thomas", regarding how slow the minutes were during the nights they wouldn't let me sleep more than an hour. When the nurse who had just given me a suppository (the size and shape of a rifle bullet) asked if I needed anything else, I said, "Hell, I was going to ask you out to dinner!". The same nurse, upon removing my catheter, told me that if I didn't pee in the next six hours, it would have to go back in. I leaned over to Lisa Chapin and said, "She gets me. Incentive through implied threat". I dutifully spent the next two hours trying to pee into an empty jug, something I used to do all the time when driving between Austin and Houston. On a side note, I'm still "farting" out my peehole, which is something I've never experienced in all my 39 years, and certainly wasn't on the list (way down from three-way with twins). It doesn't get much better than that, though. I can certainly tell you that much.

Well, I'm kind of tuckered out after this, so I'm going to watch TV through a narcotic haze. "Hi, I'm Chris Larsen and I've been sober for five days..."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bistro Table

This was another commission piece for a friend who had a party house on the lake. He has a billiard room with Pottery Barn stools and wanted a matching bistro table. He had a bunch of Ipe (Brazilian Walnut) laying around after a flooring project, so we thought it would be a great way to salvage/recyle the wood that was just sitting under his deck. I loaded up a stool and the wood and headed off to the shop. I carefully measured the stool and drew up a proportionate table in AutoCAD. After getting his approval from the drawings, I dug in. Ipe makes the most horrible saffron colored micro-sawdust in the world. It's also unbelievably hard and abrasive, so it trashes your tools.

This was also my first foray into loose-tenon jointer (ala David Marks), and I'm glad I did. Loose tenon joinery allowed me to make the eight degree cuts on the aprons and stetchers nice and clean, without having to worry about tenon extensions. I made a jig out of MDF and cut the oversized pattern out to make 3/8" tenons.

The happy accident was that because the the jig sits flush against the end grain of the tenon and the face of leg, the tenons are perfectly aligned and registered between the two pieces, so the joinery is perfect. I set the depth of cut on the router bit to allow 1/16" for hydraulic squeeze-out. The piece was delivered unfinished because the client wanted to use the same finish as the floor, which would make it match, and also make it quite durable.

Craftsman Bookends

Fun little project I saw in an advertisement in the back of "American Bungalow" magazine. I had some scrap red oak laying around and my girlfriend had to go out for the afternoon for a business meeting (we work from home). I showed the ad to her, she said she liked it, so I said I'd have it done by the time she got home. "Yeah, right", she said. Sure enough, a few hours later, the raw piece was sitting on the counter. The hardest part was chiseling out the four little holes on each side. Gluing the thing together so that the two respective halves slid freely, without too much slop was really trying. I ended up using dowels to give it enough strength. I have since overstessed it and I think broke some of the dowel fibers, but that should be easy enough to fix. This piece ended up being fumed with the tabouret tables, so once again, the red oak didn't turn out as well as I hoped, even though I had been warned. It currently resides on my desk, holding all of my .ASP, .HTML, .CSS, and SQL manuals. It used to hold all of our commonly used cookbooks on the back of the kitchen sink peninsula.

Craftsman Headboard

My first "big" project. I had been living my entire adult life without a headboard, and I had been feeling a tad white trash to say the least. We decided to bite the bullet and build this, even though we were moving in a month, which basically meant I had to knock it out quick and use it for only a few nights before we packed. $300 worth of quarter-sawn white oak and I was off. This was my first foray into QSWO, but after the tabouret debacle, I haven't looked back since. Following the illustrated and photographed plans, I was able to make the parts and the box-joint jig required to assemble the headboard. Assembling it for the dry fit was a two hour process, which involved a lot of creative vocabulary. After getting the assembly procedure down, it was time for the glue-up. This part always stresses me out because it's a point of no return kind of thing. The glue up went relatively well. Since I glued it up in a tiny apartment, and I had to move the dinette set out of the way to make room. Beause no wall was long enough for the headboard, I had to lean it against the wall at an angle to cure, which gave it a decided rack, which we did not think about until it was time to bolt it to the mattress frame. It's 1/2" out across the six feet, but there's not a lot I can do about it now. I finished it with TransTint #6003 Reddish Brown, with several coats of hand-rubbed poly, just in time to use it for a week. All of my woodworking friends thought I was crazy to start a project of that magnitude while we were packing, but I didn't know when I was going to have the time to make something so personally important afterwards. This piece was made in the spring of '08. It ended up being the first piece in an entire bedroom set.

This was my first commission piece for a friend of ours. They were remodeling their master suite, and needed something light and airy to match the basin they had already purchased from Ikea. They had a very specific finish recipe, which they had used on the red oak floor (i.e. Minwax "Sedona Red" and "Golden Oak"). We discussed design elements, some of which were against my personal tastes, but once I drew it up in AutoCAD, I was thrilled with how it turned out and I learned a huge lesson about being open-minded. I had to purchase a minimal amount of wood because another friend had given me some rather dramatic oak from skids he had salvaged from work. Sawing them down on my contractor's saw ended up burning out the motor. Since I was in a time crunch, I ended up buying a nice 10" Delta hybrid saw that has since seen hundreds of hours of use. I arranged the four legs to optimize the "show" sides, since there were lots of knots. I also made the lattice just like you see teak decks on old-school sailboats. Making the box joint jig really helped out, and the entire lattice assemble fit very snugly into its hole. I used dowel pegs to suspend the lattice work invisibly, and to allow for easy removal. They were ecstatic with it, and I gained an appreciation for what you can find at Ikea.