Friday, July 30, 2010

Shop Girl: The joint

As I said in a previous post, I'm basing the design for the woodworking bench on an original by Ian Kirby (seen here in this construction article on the Osborne Wood Products sight). I love the simplicity of this bench. There are other, more traditional cabinetmaker's benches that use fancy vises (for a look at what these are, look for "Tage Frid bench" or "Frank Klaus bench" on the internet) and when I first started out in the woodworking game, I was sure that that was what I wanted. But as time has passed, I've realized that a bench like Kirby's is more suited to how I work on things. One vise, on the front, with a stop to plane against. The only other thing I'd really need would be a couple of rows of dog holes so that I can use hold fasts for my paddle making.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming...

...to remove a large branch from the pecan tree that cracked and, uh, fell over the shop. It was about a foot in diameter and thirty feet long--long enough, fortunately, that the end of it came to rest in my neighbor's yard, which in turn prevented it from coming down on top of the roof. I don't have a photo of that (I was in such a state of dither about it that I momentarily forgot to record the event for the blog), but this is where it was:

Fortunately, I found a tree guy, Mark Stewart, of Stewart Landscaping, who was willing to come out on a Saturday and make the shop safe. Then he returned on Monday to finish the job. While he was at it, I had him take out this branch, seen here in earlier years:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shop Girl: The bench base

Since last we spoke, I've gone and made the base for the woodworking bench:

The process to get from here to yon was a bit involved, though, so I'm going to present it to you in little snippets (or teasers, whichever your pleasure) over the next few days.

First things first, I needed to take all this raw lumber:

...and turn it into milled pieces with which to work, as in these fine examples of cherry (partially milled on the left, milled on the right):

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Square and true


When I first started woodworking many years ago, I was more interested in the final product than the process of making it. All the measuring, and marking, and cutting--why, those were just annoying obstacles that got in the way of finishing whatever it was I was working on. Hurry, hurry, that was me.

So I practiced my skills accordingly...and it showed. I figured that if something was not exactly square when I cut it, well I could fudge it in the end. But that turned out not to be true. The reality is that if you don't cut the parts of a joint square and true to begin with, then it won't be that way when you put it together, not matter how much "carpenterial persuasion"* you apply to it. It won't be square and true ever.

Woodworking, it turns out, is more like baking than cooking. You know about the difference between those, don't you? Generally speaking, people who enjoy making foodstuffs are either good at one or the other, but not both. This is because they require entirely different approaches to the problem. A cook has a general idea of a dish--this protein, that acid, this thickener, these spices--and tastes and adjusts quantities accordingly. A baker, on the other hand, must work with precise ingredients in precise measurements, or she will end up with a flat cake or dry brownies. Details count when you're a baker. Details are everything.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shop Girl: Old bench, meet my new bench

Every woodworker needs a good bench, and fortunately, it's not hard to cobble together a flat surface on which to work. Case in point: My current bench is made from a re-purposed sink cabinet, made available during a remodel of a bathroom. The top consists of two 2'x4' sheets of MDF, covered with tempered hardboard:

The hardboard is screwed in, so it can be replaced. That way, I don't have to worry too much about glue spills or nicks in the surface. I'm pretty careful when I work, though, so I've only replaced it twice in the decade or so that I've used the bench.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Susan Hanson's paddle, finally




A couple of years ago I promised my friend Susan Hanson that I'd make her a canoe paddle to go with her new boat. And I did start the project, but Dad died not too long after that and I just sort of lost steam on it. The truth is, I lost it on all of my woodworking. It seemed like every time I went into the shop to work, I'd be reminded of him and I wouldn't have the heart to carry on. So I scratched my "building-things" itch with various hardscaping projects in the garden, and that has been sufficient for my needs during this dry spell.

I saw Susan on my recent visit to Maine--she was one of the coterie of women working on the planning of a conference--and I was reminded both of how much I enjoy her company and that I owed her a paddle. So when I came back, I started working on the paddle blank.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A word about Buffa10

I hardly know where to start. There are too many photos and too much to say, but I have to begin somewhere, so here goes...

First of all, Buffalo was surprising. It isn't fair to say I was expecting anything, really. Buffalo was just this city I'd always heard about but never seen, like Topeka, or Fargo, or Sioux City. You know what I mean? It's just there, in the dim, bland brain wasteland of I-know-you-exist-but-I-really-have-no-reason-to-be-noticing-you. Kind of like LBB, when you think about it.

Well, no, that last bit is not quite right. It is not "kind of like LBB," because the truth is I'd never invite 72 dedicated garden bloggers from all over the United States and Canada to tour the gardens of my home city. I mean, what is there to see? We haven't got a lot of exciting public gardens (OK, none, unless you count the South Plains Food Bank farm, which I do, though probably not for aesthetic reasons), and while the private ones can be amazing, they are truthfully pretty few and far between. And there is no way I'd show them my scraggly patch of land...

Y'all know I love LBB--you know I do--but it is not much to look at.

So all right, I guess on some level I was expecting something, since Elizabeth Licata (Garden Rant and Gardening While Intoxicated) and Jim Charlier (Art of Gardening) had both stepped up and volunteered to show off their hometown. And we did see gardens. In fact, we saw a LOT of gardens, most of which looked as spectacular as this one:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What I'm up to in Buffa10


For the past couple of days and for a couple of more I am in Buffalo, New York, for the third annual garden bloggers meet-up. These have been called the "Spring Fling" in the past, but the organizers here in Buffalo wanted to link the get-together with the Buffalo Garden Walk, a rather spectacular event held each year in July, so to call it "Spring" would be seasonally discombobulating. No matter, they came up with a snappy title all their own that is season-neutral: "Buffa10."

This is my first meet-up, and though exhausted, I'm having a blast, mostly because I am getting to meet blogging pals, many of whom I feel like I've known forever in the virtual world, like Lisa, of Natural Gardening:


We're touring the gardens while we're here. This is my first time in Buffalo, and I have to say that I'm really impressed with the level of involvement in gardening in the city. One of my favorite stops yesterday was at a "landscape makeover" done in conjunction with the National Garden Festival. Local landscapers donated time and materials to create front gardens for an entire block of houses like these:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Help me decide on a woodworking signature!

In the olden days, craftsmen would often "sign" their work with a coin set flush in the wood. The coin would bear the date of the year in which the work was made.

I think this is a wonderful idea, and decided to start doing it myself, so I ordered a special Forstner bit in the size of a United States quarter. But for my first such "signature," I thought I'd set a coin in my shaving horse, which is, to date, my favorite woodworking project. However, when I went through my spare change bucket looking for a quarter from 2007 (the year I built the horse), I found that the two state quarters minted that year were Wyoming and Montana. Now, Montana's design is pretty nice, but honestly, Wyoming's leaves something to be desired...

An unembellished bronco rider? Really, Wyoming? This is all you could come up with?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shop Girl: Disaster upon chaos

Well, no sooner had I tucked the sink neatly into the corner:

...and hung the small-thingy-bits cabinet on the wall and had the "day-core" adjusted just so:

...than over 4 inches of rain fell in 2 days*, resulting in flooding conditions in the woodworking shop and causing the cabinets and table saw to beat a hasty retreat to the middle of the floor:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shop Girl: And we're off, sort of...

Well, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind to start off the Shop Girl series, but a couple of days ago, Walu asked me to do something about some old photography darkroom equipment that has been languishing in the utility room for years. So one thing led to another, and the next thing you know, we're playing "dumpster poker."

What's that you say? You've never heard of dumpster poker? Well, that's where you say, "Gee, I'd really appreciate it if you'd clean out (fill in the blank)." And I say, "Well, I'll see your broken stereo receiver that has been sitting on the bookshelf for a decade, and I'll raise you a 1970's princess phone I've had squirreled away in the (whatever it is you are challenged to clean out)." And off they both go to the dumpster (Or Goodwill or the recycling bin, as the case may be). It's a great way to clean house, though Walu, a classic pack rat, is a little stressed out by it.

Actually, he's not a big fan of dumpster poker, but that's what he gets for suggesting I clean out the utility room.

One of the items in the darkroom that I never had any intention of getting rid of, however, is a very handy sink given to me by my friend Dave Bolch. He'd originally made it for his own darkroom, and then passed it along to me when he upgraded. And since I haven't developed and printed any photos in years (got sucked into the whole digital thing, you know), I've wanted to put that sink in the shop, where I've needed one for a long time. I've just been very, very busy and couldn't get to it.

OK, the truth is I've procrastinated, because I knew it would lead to this:

Yes, that's right, complete chaos. My normally fairly organized shop is in disarray as I'm re-arranging things in order to fit the sink in. If you don't believe me, take a look at this:

And this:

And I thought that as long as I'm moving things around, I might as well do a little long-overdue cleaning and organizational updating. So that's what I've been working on for a couple of days. I'll post the "after" pictures, hopefully, sometime this weekend.