I followed a link tonight and got to the happiest woodworker I know. Great to hear Curtis’ views, he’s the real thing. I haven’t seen him in a while, it was nice to hear him twang. One thing he’s wrong about – he claims he’s not the best. Nonsense. He’s the best.
OK first thing to tell you is that I have been thinking about writing blog posts, but haven’t made any good photographs lately, so not much happening here. But there’s been lots going on.
Update on the rosewood applied turning project, (https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/this-aint-green-woodworking/ ) We’ve known the Boston joiners sometimes used tropical hardwoods for applied turnings for quite some time. Never having worked wood like this, I spoke to many woodworkers – and heard all sorts of nightmarish stories. It’s crazy expensive (nope, these are small bits I need,10 1/2″ long. bought blanks from Woodcraft. Maybe $12-15 each for Bolivian Rosewood and East Indian Rosewood), it will dull your tools something awful (the Bolivian rosewood was not too much of a problem in that regard), you’ll need to wash the surfaces w some noxious chemical to get the glue to hold the parts together prior to turning. (nope again. I even used the cheater liquid hide glue in a bottle, easy and it worked fine), and you’ll need to scrape the shapes on the lathe, rather than shave/turn them. This I assumed on my own, based on reading Moxon on turning “hard” woods like ebony. Nope one more time. My turning tools were pretty sharp, but nothing extreme, worked fine. It was the nicest piece of wood I have ever turned. I did wear long sleeves and gloves, just to be safe. I don’t want to find out that I am allergic to these weird woods. It’s clunky turning w gloves on though…I could hunt down some tight-fitting cotton gloves. It is a museum after all…
I had wondered, after hearing all the stories, if the pole lathe could handle the program. I never should have doubted – when I think back to the 17th-century challenges it makes sense that turning these things shouldn’t be much different from working other woods on the lathe. I doubt these joiners and turners were going to a lot of trouble. I usually operate on the assumption that there was a straight-forward way to get this work done…
I used a polissoir I bought from Don Williams to burnish the piece while it was spinning in the lathe. Great stuff all around. Now, for tomorrow – the East Indian Rosewood.
I can’t wait to turn it. Sawing it was weird – it felt like iron. the teeth of the saw barely left a mark. But it cut pretty easily. Very fine dust though…I carefully swept it up.
The other day I went to the MFA to research and study a turned bedstead in their collection. It will show up here later in the month of March…
Today I went to the North Bennett Street School http://www.nbss.edu/index.aspx to give the furniture students there a dog & pony show – and then wandered around the shop looking at all their work. And took a total of about 3 photographs – I was kicking myself afterwards for not shooting a lot of stuff. That place is an amazing visit. Chock full of furniture, parts, woods, books, tools – it’s great. I hope to go back before too long.
I forget if it was last week or the week before, but I taught a carving workshop at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking recently. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/We had a great time (I did at least, and I think the students did too) – here’s a few shots:
I’ll be back there in September for another weekend of carving. Bob Van Dyke supplied near-perfect quartersawn oak. Amazing stuff.
In the meantime, I am still hoping for students out west at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. Right now, it sounds like we need 6 more students for each workshop. Otherwise, these 2 classes will get cancelled. One is a week-long “make a joint stool” class… the other a 2-day class in carving. It would be a shame it we have to scrap it, the school and I have dedicated the time slot and can’t really make it up if it falls through. I know time/money/logistics are all a concern for all of us. But I often get requests “When are you coming to X,Y, Z?” – I only get to come if we get students. I won’t harp about it again, just one last nudge if you know someone out that way, or wanting to visit out that way…dates are April 22-26 for the joinery class, and the 27th & 28th for the carving http://www.ptwoodschool.com/Home.html
This ain’t green woodworking. These applied turnings are on a chest of drawers from Boston, c. 1630s-1690s. I’m making some for a chest loosely based on the originals; the Boston joiners also used these turnings on cupboards, cabinets and joined chests, Some of them are “exotics” i.e. imported timbers from the Caribbean and other faraway places. I’ve seen rosewood and ebony used for these, I think. My notes are somewhere. (Or check American Furniture 2010 for an article I did with Robert Trent about the Boston joinery tradition – “Re-assessing the London Style Joinery and Turning of Seventeenth-Century Boston”) Often these turnings are done in local maple instead.
When I run across a straight-grained section of maple in the firewood pile, I split some out and save it for a time like this. The maple I’m working here was riven from green stock a long time ago, rough-planed, and stored in the shop until needed. Which is now.
I decided to practice on maple, and make my mistakes on that. The final ones will be in rosewood. Also not green woodworking.
The premise I operate on is that these turnings are made by gluing up two blanks with a thin piece between them. The function of this sacrificial piece is to prevent the points of the pole lathe from wedging the glued-up stock apart. Everyone I know who has made these used an electric lathe, with various types of drive centers/dead centers. If I just glue the two maple pieces together, the points of my lathe will, when tightened, wedge them apart. Not good. So here you see them centered on the oak strip, not bearing on the glue joint.
So here’s what it looks like in stages. I true up the maple bits, these need to be dead-flat so you can glue them together. Likewise, make the center strip, In my shop, it’s usually oak. Hide glue is used to make a sandwich out of them.
Scribe the diameter on the end grain.
Next, I plane chamfers on the corners to get them nearly octagonal.
Then turn them. I have good photos of the originals, but I never measured their details. I have a good idea of the scale, so I am working out my proportions in the wood. I turned one pair and knew they were wrong – but I finished them anyway, so I could use them as a guide for the next pair.
Here are both turnings. The bottom one is first. Too much taper, too exaggerated. I find I have to get them off the lathe sometimes to see their shapes more clearly. I photographed them against the window and this showed me the details clearly. The second set is closer to the shapes in the originals.
On the 2nd one, (top in photo) I almost had it just the way I wanted it, the vase/cup near the top has its greater diameter too low, its widest point should be right near its top rim. So I put it back & trimmed it some. It’s overall too thick, next one will be more slender. But its proportions are what I am after.
I have some Bolivian rosewood to work on next.
For planing that, I used this toothing plane that I got in the Alexander hoard.
But this is not true rosewood, from the family Dalbergia. I have some East Indian rosewood on the way…need gloves for that stuff. Maybe a mask…
November 22, 2012 is Thanksgiving day in the U.S. Simple for me to find what I am thankful for, because it’s also the birthday of my kids Rose & Daniel. Seven years old now. They showed me a couple of little toys they got this morning, a wolf and a hedgehog or something like it. These wooden toys are among the favorites in our household. The kids dragged out a number of others like them.
I had seen a photo in Robin Wood’s book about the “ring” turners who make similar toys in the German town of Seiffen, then I remembered that just the other day Robin posted a link to a youtube piece about how these toys are made. So I am copping it & posting it here in case you missed it.
Notice that CNN calls him a “wood-spinner” – but we all know he’s a turner.
I don’t think our toys are ring-turned, but regardless, for us, these toys are great. Nice that they are wooden, but best feature is that they are just figures that the kids have to apply all the story for…and when you let them, they do. No Disney story line, no action figure, no computer game to go with them. No T-shirt, pillowcase, DVD series, – none of that sort of junk that we find associated with so many toys…
Slowly I am coming around to almost liking some walnut…how’s that for a qualifying statement? Much of the stock I had last year was excellent quality – straight grain and clear. Around the shop I have been making boxes and boxes from it, practicing dovetails.
Since that post I have seen another 17th-century example; essentially a joined & carved version. I am making some of that style for a magazine article soon…I’ll show it here on the blog after the article runs.
This walnut one is for sale. Price is $150 plus shipping. Email me if you are interested. firstname.lastname@example.org
Overall height is roughly 18″ ; width is about 14 1/2″ – depth around 15″.
The last walnut one didn’t hang around long, though.