Monday, April 23, 2012

Celebrate the Journey!

 Remember the things you made when you first got into woodworking? Some of them are probably still in your home or the home of other family members.

Now that you’ve progressed way beyond that level of work you probably sort of wish those other pieces just didn’t exist anymore, at least not in a prominent place in the house, and even though there are some quite good pieces now in the collection it probably just irks you to no end when your family members are showing visitors around the house pointing out the pieces you’ve made and they always include the ones you wished they would leave out of the tour.

Yep…..,me too, but hey let’s get over it. The truth of the matter is this. You probably put a lot of time and effort into those pieces and even though you had not perfected your dovetailing and finishing skills and most probably assembled most of the components with screws in lieu of finely executed joinery, they probably turned out pretty good in spite of everything you didn’t know at that time. Why else would they have stood the test of time and still be in your house when the assemble in 10 minutes particle board stuff has long been gone to the dumpster?

After 4 years of construction we finally moved into our new/old house about 6 years ago. I was really torn about which pieces I wanted to transition into the new home and which ones I would have just as well left behind. We had the perfect place in our new kitchen for a corner cupboard and we had a pine corner cupboard that I had made many years ago and frankly was quite proud of at the time. I resisted the idea of moving that cupboard into the kitchen and for many years it was part of the furnishings my youngest son used in his living quarters in the Garden House. I knew I could make a much better piece and had good intentions to do just that.

But time passes and people want planes and I aim for them to have planes so the corner of the kitchen that so deserved a corner cupboard was occupied with an iron baker’s rack that I really didn’t like at all, but due to my stubbornness about the corner cupboard we were forced to live with it.

Recently our youngest moved into an apartment. When we finally settled down from the celebration of finally having an empty nest we had to decide what he was to take and what was to be left behind. We decided he should not take the pine corner cupboard to his new digs. I cleaned out the corner cupboard and went over the outside with a dark scratch cover liquid which in this case actually accentuated all the nick, dings and scrapes the soft pine cupboard had received in it’s years of service.

The cupboard combined with a table that I also didn’t consider one of my better efforts now resides in our kitchen and I have to admit I was wrong this entire time. Both pieces look very at home in their new location. Julie resisted the temptation to say I told you so, but I certainly would have deserved it.

Furniture is part of life. Especially when you’re talking about pieces made by someone in the family. Woodworking is a journey and those pieces that you’re not so proud of are part of that journey and were a necessary part of getting you to where you are now in your woodworking skill set. Don’t be embarrassed. Celebrate the journey!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lie-Nielsen Open House at WoodCraft Atlanta This Weekend

 The Atlanta WoodCraft store is one of the best woodworking stores I've had the pleasure to visit. Owner Steve Quehl stocks everything you'd ever want or need for woodworking and this store also contains a state of the art teaching facility. Steve is a hand tool woodworking enthusiasts and his store is one of the few WoodCraft stores that stocks Lie-Nielsen tools.

This weekend I'll be there displaying a few of my planes and Representatives from Lie-Nielsen will be there to demonstrate and answer all your questions about their extensive line of tools, and if you run out of questions about their tools you can ask Tim what it's like to work on a Lobster boat off the coast of Maine.

There will also be a new face in hand tool woodworking present at the store this weekend as well. Jon Fiant is a custom woodworker that also happens to be a Woodworking bench builder. If you want a workbench that contains the renown BenchCrafted vises but don't have the time or inclination to build a bench, then Jon is the guy that can build that bench for you whether it be a solid top or split top Roubo or a Shaker style workbench or any other design you wish. He plans to have an in progress Shaker style bench at WoodCraft this weekend that features an integral device to make the bench easily movable. I'm looking forward to seeing this myself.

Hope to see you there,


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Some of you may remember the blog post toward the end of last summer about a new garden area we developed adjacent to the shop. At the Woodworking in America Conference last fall Julie and I were amazed by how many people commented on the garden post. This post is a garden update.

The plantings managed better thru August than I had anticipated. The exception were the Native Azaleas. It seemed we couldn't give them enough water and before winter arrived they had lost most of their foliage. Julie and I were wondering what might be a suitable replacement. We decided to give them the winter to settle in and see what would happen in the spring. They bloomed profusely and seem to be making a come back, unfortunately I didn't get any pictures while they were blooming.

 As you all well know spring came early this year and before I even thought about taking pictures many of the plantings were past blooming. Some of the later spring offerings are showing up at this time and the new fern fronds have emerged. I love the reddish orange color of the new Autumn fern foliage.

 This overall pictures gives you an idea of just how green it is in Georgia this time of year. It's so green most of the foreground in this photo blends into the background.

These variegated hostas (above) are not showing much contrast. Sometimes too much compost makes them so green they don't show the variegation as much as we'd like. They seemed to emerge overnight it seemed.

The oregano shown below was much the same, however with the mild winter these plants never really went dormant. In fact I visited this patch a couple of times during the winter to do some harvesting on pizza night. Nothing better than herbed pizza crust with fresh oregano and rosemary.

Another hosta (below) emerging later than the others, yet still quite early in the growing season

The Radican Gardenias are a main stay of our woodland garden and will be sporting small white flowers before long.

Julie and I installed drip irrigation in two of the planting berms last fall. We still need to install another drip system into the last berm this spring. Warm weather arriving so early has me a bit worried as to what might be in store for this summer.

We'll be adding a few more plantings to the garden yet this spring and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the deer don't decided the salad bar is open. I have to admit the hostas look hard to resist.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Have I Mentioned that I Like Working Olive Wood?

As a plane maker I have the pleasure to work some very unique woods. Many of these woods are quite challenging due to their dense nature. I have to say that Macassar Ebony is some of the hardest material that I've yet to plane. It makes a piece of Osage Orange seem like a walk in the park. Of course the rosewoods are very interesting as well given the way they seem to change color daily, starting as mauve and yellow streaks that change within a couple of days to reddish dark brown and amber stripes. The rosewoods also have the added issue in that they have to be handled a bit carefully as they are not the most pleasant materials to process. Nothing like a wood that tries to kill you as you coerce it to the desired shape, it's almost like it's fighting back.

I have to say that the wood I enjoy working most is Olive. I like everything about this wood. I like the way it works, I like the way it looks, I like the way it smells, I like the way it finishes and I like the way it ages. In fact I like everything about this wood except for the fact that it's hard to come by in the sizes needed for plane making.

Olive has a wonderful smell. If you like cooking with olive oil you'll also enjoy the smell that emerges from this wood as you turn, plane or sand this material. It seems our diet includes different varieties of Italian dishes when I'm making a plane using this wood. Maybe there's a connection, like a subliminal messages from the wood that says "go make pasta." I finished up the Olive wood plane on Friday and we made lasagna on Saturday. That seems like more than a coincidence.

Olive has a very unique look and it can vary widely in color from one piece to the next which makes it a bit hard to match up pieces from different blanks. It's always best to make every part of a plane from the same piece. It has very nice contrasting lines that are highlighted by a background of tan to yellow color. It is very interesting in this regard especially from an end grain perspective.

The way Olive wood ages is more gradual than the rosewoods in that it occurs over a wide period of time but ultimately the effects are dramatic. In the picture below the plane on the right is the one I completed this past Friday and the one on the left is a plane that I completed about 18 months ago. There is quite a contrast but I think the effects are most appealing. The other thing you will notice in this picture is how the knob shape has evolved since the making of the earlier plane.

I shot some video of the shaping of the rear tote on the recently completed plane. Once again the detail is a lot better if you opt for the 720p version and watch it full screen.