Sunday, January 31, 2010

Got wood?

We have now all returned from the good ol' US of A and what a trip it was!  I had never and may never again see as much wood as I did in the last couple days.  Many of you may be thinking, yawn....but it was pretty thrilling.  The Gilmer Wood company in Portland, was mind boggling for several reasons.  Three massive warehouses, stocked to the roof and with absolutely no organization whatsoever.  It was incredible.  We were climbing over pallets, twenty feet high to get at wood that had apparently been buried for up to 30 years!  Thankfully, no one was buried alive, although it seemed a definite possibility throughout the day.  By my very rough estimation, inventory in the tens of millions and that doesn't include the hundreds of old, rusty, industrial sized machines that were scattered everywhere.  I'm realizing now, as I look at my pictures, that I've done a poor job documenting the above description in photos, but you'll have to trust me, it was ridiculous.
Don, Meredith, Robert, Steve N. and Roberta during a Masur Birch log and Pear plank search.

Jason and  Byron atop a pile of Pear planks that were 3 inches thick and in the $1000 a plank range, which as you can tell, was shocking to Byron.
Surf's up for Evan as he scopes out a big pile of ?????
This was the smaller half of the Claro Walnut log we looked at.

Don with a giant band saw that his ancestors must have manufactured.
Meredith and her nice log of Masur Birch. 

I know that when I'm home I'll miss Robert's bountiful variety of woods for accents, drawer fronts or pulls and such and so my strategy going in was to come back with as many nice little pieces of wood in various species as I could find.  I was thrilled to find a couple bins of cheap offcuts that I could sort though.  Pieces like Brazilian Satinwood, Curly Pear, Castello Boxwood, Kingwood, Macassar Ebony and Ziricote were among the highlights but I brought home a whole box full of treasures, most of which were a buck or two.  Saturday, before hitting the road our car also went to a place called Goby Walnut and had a much different and very pleasant shopping experience.  It's just down the road from Gilmer but being much smaller allows them to display their stock in a much more buyer friendly way.  They specialize in Walnut and had some beautiful planks that Steve and Byron indulged in while I found a couple nice planks of white oak that caught my fancy.  Best of all, at no point during the morning was I worried about any of us being crushed by a toppling tower of wood.

We also hit a nice co-op shop on the way down and saw another way in which people can work and share a space, much like we're all used to at the school.  McMenamins Edgefield outside of Portland was a great place to stay if you're ever in the area.  It is an old building converted into a hostel/ hotel with numerous bars, restaurants and a cool atmosphere.   On the way home we stopped at the Northwest Furniture Gallery in Seattle; lots of nice pieces worth seeing.   A bit more driving, missed the second to last ferry by five minutes and then caught the last ferry home.

Robert has continued down the road towards Fort Bragg, California to visit Britta Krenov, JK's widow.  Best of luck to him and hopefully we'll all make some good progress on our projects while he's away.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Off to Gilmer's!

We're off on a bit of a road trip for the next few days!  We're going down to Portland to visit a wood supplier, the Gilmer Wood Company that Robert has described as Disneyland for woodworkers.  You may be thinking that it seems like a long way to go to buy wood, and I'm with you on that, but I'm optimistic that it will be worth the trek.  They have every variety under the sun and it'll be fun to come back with a few nice gems.

ps. I've harvested my table's legs....I'm excited about them.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Preview of 2nd project.

Now that I've completed my first project, including the pull, it's time to move on to bigger and better things, namely veneers.  I definitely had it in my mind when I go here that at some point I wanted to do a table and learn about the construction and joinery involved.  Solid wood table joinery is different than if you are using veneers.   Since mine will be a veneer construction,this means is that it will be doweled together instead of using mortise and tenon joinery as most table are built with.  The benefit of veneer construction is that although technically, you're still working with solid wood, we engineer it in layers so that it is stable, not subject to wood movement like a regular piece of wood.  I'll talk more about this process once I have some photos to share and explain.

This is a preview/ sketch of the table.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Finito! Walnut Wall Cabinet!

So when I left off, the back panel was mostly put together and I was ready to move on to the drawers.  Not many pictures of the process but here they are.
Robert gave me a beautiful little piece of Tasmanian Blackwood for the fronts and the sides were actually some mystery wood that came bolted on the new table saw when it arrived.  Whatever it is, it's nice and dovetailed beautifully.  The bottoms are red cedar and the pulls were carved from Imbuya.  I was really pleased with the fit I achieved on the drawers.  They actually act as pistons, pushing and sucking each other in and out...sort of a vacuum effect.
This is a photo of my back panel being glued in.  It was a successful glue-up as I put far more time into planning than I did with the wabi-sabi back panel glue-up.  Sometimes, it seems, an extra hour spent planning can save you from a disaster and much angst.  It feels good when everything goes according to plan.  Many cauls and many clamps.

The door was the last glue-up I had to do.  I waffled over the shape and size of the "fin" leading up to Christmas and when I came back I decided that I agreed with Robert and several others who suggested it be toned down just a little bit.  It now works much better with the grain graphics on the panel and seems so obviously right, in hind sight.

Next I fit and hung the door, installed the wall hangers I had previously made and put some shellac on the door frame.  I am still debating whether or not I want to put a pull on the front or simply carve on on the side of the door, but for al intents and purposes, it is done.

And so, I present.... my Walnut Wall Cabinet

 I really enjoyed working on this project and I feel like a did a good job.  It was heavily influenced by those around me and was much better for it.  Thank you to all of you.

Wood Summary:
Carcass and Frames - Black Walnut
Door panels - Red Elm
Drawers - Tasmanian Blackwood, Red Cedar, reclaimed wood, Imbuya
Back panels - spalted reclaimed wood

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I know I promised that I'd have photos posted of the finished cabinet by now but, and I'm not making this up, we were asked to put it on hold for this week.  Robert feels that it's best for students to regain their touch and groove first, before any critical errors should befall the projects.  As such, this week we have learned about and worked on a wooden spokeshave as well as a veneered curved panel door.  I've also started working on a little dovetailed box for Rya, in which she can keep the locket we gave her for Chirstmas.

Speaking of Rya, here's a wonderful photo of her and Elli yucking it up.  We missed the joke but evidently Elli caught the punch-line.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Local Newspaper Article

During our open house before Christmas a reporter from the coast;s local newspaper came in to check out what we were up to.  The school is quite a fixture on the coast as it seems that everybody you talk to know of it and the awesome things that go on there.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Walnut cabinet takes shape

Prior to glueing up the carcass the shaping of the edges is done, all the surfaces are hand-planed and then everything is pre-finsihed with shellac and wax.  Never-mind the misguided focus in the first photo.

 And then finally it is glued-up.

I tend to over simplify things in terms of design.  In the previous post you saw the mock-up with the off center "mullion" on the door.  In my mind that was cool, in a sketch it was cool and then once I mocked it up it seemed overly simple and kind of dull.  One of the most beneficial parts of being at the school is sharing the space with so many creative people and thus having other people influence your work.  One such example occurred with my door.  Meredith, another student came over while I was looking at the wood I had in mind for my door panels.  Shown below, it's actually the same red elm that was at one pint destined to be my hall table.

So, Meredith sees my pieces sitting flat, overlapping each other as I pondered what they would look like once they were placed side by side.  She says, "Cool!  I like the offsetting panels!", or something along those lines.  Being that I was stuck on the mulion thing, I had never thought about anything else.  Basically to make another long story short, her suggestion or comment led me down a road that after consulting with Robert resulted in door panels that I'm super excited about.

As you can see, above the door panels have reverse flips for lack of a better word.  It involved one joint to begin the angle before the fine tuning of the shape could begin.  The panel is a book match which means that both sides share the same pattern and color on either side of the flip.

Once I was happy that the panels were roughly the shape I wanted it was a matter of creating the frame to hold them and complete the door.  It took some doing to find nice straight grained stock, thus the once big planks were further dissected, but in the end I found just the right pieces.  Robert encourages us to always have back-up pieces in case of an unfortunate error or the like, but in this case I was left with no such margin. After much stressful but also careful workmanship of risk on the through mortise and tenons, my pieces escaped unscathed and ready to be mated with the panels.

The next thing I wanted to tackle was the back panel.  This involved more decisions regarding wood.  The photot below is a piece of cherry that I quite liked and was quite prepared to go ahead with.  While Robert said t worked, he also thought it was a bit too safe.

Below you can see what I came up with instead...once again because Robert pushed me to go a little beyond where I was headed.  My favourite thing about the wood for my back panels (besides the incredible spalting and color) is that Robert salvaged it from a crate at some point in the past and we don't even know what species is.

Mocked-up with faux rails and stiles I'm please with my grain matches and ready to move on to the frame joinery as seen below and then some shaping, some pre-finishing and then on to glueing it up.

In my next post I will complete the process of catching up and then reveal the finished project.  I just need a couple days to put the finishing touches on it and then voila!