Posts Tagged ‘furniture design’

OK, this is cheating — again — but here’s a video of a totally cool 18th century French writing desk that’s at the J Paul Getty Museum in LA.

Where’s my saw? where’s my wood? Where’s my skill?!



Read Full Post »

A while back, I complained about the quill stop on my Rockwell drill press.
Well, this time it’s an incredibly poorly machined fence.

I borrowed a Shop Fox brand Hollow Chisel Mortising machine from a friend. This is not a high end tool. But still, one would think the mfr could to a little better job.

Shop Fox Bench top mortiser

the company's image

This is the company’s image. Notice how nice and level that white fence is. (admittedly, the white fence is hard to see on a white background.)

Here’s what my friend’s fence looks like:

Shop Fox Mortiser fence

Not nearly as straight as the other pic

Now the reason this fence isn’t straight is because the two flats machined on the rear support/adjustment rod aren’t machined perpendicular to each other.

my square shows how off these flats are

So, when you tighten down the lock knob, it twists out of square.

Now, I will say that I didn’t have any problems with the whacky fence. It’s just that such poor machining gives one an idea of the attention to detail these “fine Chinese” tools are held to.

I have a set of Shop Fox roller supports that failed because of the puny spot welds meant to hold the rollers to the stand. (height adjustment knob failed too.)

Needless to say, I would never again buy a Shop Fox tool, nor recommend them.

Read Full Post »

Boy! it’s been ages since I wrote last. Lots has happened, just not much time to comment on it.

A post in early 2010 was on repairing two Gehry “Cross Check” chairs.

Frank Gehry "Cross Check" arm chair

Frank Gehry "Cross Check" arm chair

I have been surprised on the number of comments from owners who want to know about repairing them. This is a chair that doesn’t seem to stay together very well.  And because everything is held together with glue, these chairs are going to continue to fail.  I’m kind of surprised Knoll, the mfr, doesn’t have a repair service so they can rake in all those after sale dollars — like new car dealers’ repair shops.

And you never know where a repair is going to come from or where it’s going to lead. Recently, I got an email about repairing another chair, but this one has actual physical damage to one of the curved uprights — a completely different fix-it job. The inquiry was from the south east but the chair is in northern Calif.

That repair should be a “go” and along with it I may get a John Makepeace chair to repair too. Now Mr. Makepeace’s chairs & tables have a lot of curves and flow to them. The picture I was sent didn’t look at all like what I expected. In fact, I questioned it’s authenticity (to myself, not to the client).

John Makepeace "Directors Chair"So I wrote John Makepeace. And, kind man that he is, he wrote back and said Yes indeed, the chair is part of a small batch he made back in the 1980’s. Now, the fact that this chair is made by a famous furniture maker kind of changes how I will look at repairing it. (If it hadn’t been his, I would have suggested to the client that they toss it, because the repair would have exceeded the value.) At first I was thinking I would replace the front crossmember that is broken with a new piece — not an easy or quick job to do. But because the chair has a value above and beyond being “just a chair”, I have to think whether i want to replace the original cross piece or try to “restore” and strengthen the original in a manner that doesn’t dramatically reduce the value of it. (Needless to say, a broken but “restored” chair has less value than one that is “whole”. And, probably, a broken and poorly repaired chair has less value than a broken unrepaired chair.)

We’ll see what comes of it all.

Read Full Post »

The SLO Arts Council (Arts Obispo) began it’s twelfth annual Open Studios Art Tour this last weekend. It goes for three weekends and is supposedly the biggest Tour of this type outside of San Francisco, CA. Over two hundred artists/craftsmen participate.

San Luis Obispo is a pretty large county geographically, so the tour is divided into “North” county and “South” county. This year, north county (the part I’m in) went first. South county exhibits next weekend and then both halves combine for a third (encore) weekend.

My shop had about 140 visitors for the two days. That’s better than last year by a few, but sales were much lower.

For anyone who can’t make it to Los Osos California, here’s a brief tour:


Gumby at the door
Gumby welcomes all our visitors



such a friendly guy


Interestingly, Art Clokey the creator of Gumby, lived in Los Osos in his later years until his death at 88 early this year. We had his grandson(?) come by on this year’s tour. Sage is about 4 or 5 years old. (Although, the story was a bit convoluted as presented by the “step grandparents” he was with. So maybe he’s a great grandson.)  Our inflatable Gumby is about 25 years old



First view in the shop

Coming into the shop



sconces on the right

Sconces on the right, in front of my lumber rack



Craftsman Sconce

Craftsman Sconce of Ash & Karilian Birch Burl



joinery samples

joinery samples on the left, on my tablesaw "island"



Dosié table

Side table in front of Wolfhead Sander, Sanding table, and clutter


This is a woodshop, so it’s kind of hard to display pieces without a lot of clutter behind them.



Night Lights

Night Lights


To the right/rear of the night lights, is my Pistorius double miter saw. I get the most inquiries of “What is that?” I love this saw. It cuts a perfect miter, and with all the Wright lamps I make and all the miters I cut, this is the most expensive and most cost effective machine I own.


Walnut table + Dog

Walnut burl table & Penny


I built this small table many years ago for a neighbor of my mom-in-law’s. They had a lot of money, but the husband had the rattiest looking Lazyboy recliner I’ve ever seen. This table went right next to it.  Both Husband & wife have passed away, and my Mom-in-law bought the table back from the estate.

Penny the dog is not a shop dog — much too sensitive for that. She comes out with “mom” only for Open Studios. Makes a point of barking at the first visitors to the shop and then forgets about the rest of them.


2nd panel of lights

Another mdf panel of sconces that conveniently hides a bunch of clutter


Visitors walk past the dog, and “round the bend” towards the exit. I have a Niche on the left. on the table is a “Bud Stand”, small Chest of drawers made of Baltic Birch and Rosewood, and a digital screen with my work plus construction pictures taken from this blog. Two of the squarish sconces are made using veneers for the shades. The middle one is hand painted silk.


Chest of drawers

Chest of Drawers



Bud Stand & niche

Bud Stand & Niche


The Bud Stand is “inspired by” a photo stand designed by Wright. The Niche is designed to fit between wall studs (16″ centers). It’s painted Alder and has a small halogen light in the top.


Last wall before the door

Approching the only clear wall I have in the shop



Coffee table & wall cabinets

Coffee Table and wall cabinets


The coffee table is Hot Mottled Makoré, Lyptus, and painted Maple (see coffee table off to Carmel). The Coopered door Cherry Cabinet on the left was my first project at Jim Krenov’s Fine Woodworking program @ College of the Redwoods in Ft Bragg, CA. c1982. The cabinet on the right is made of Swedish Elm.



Coopered Door Cabinet

Cherry cabinet interior




Drawer Detail

Drawer detail showing dovetails


Ok, this picture is a bit crooked (like the others aren’t?)  The drawers are Japanese Birch fronts, Western Maple sides, and Rosewood pulls. I actually had someone ask me where my “dovetail machine” was and was quite surprised when I said that all the dovetailed drawers in all the pieces on display were hand cut.



Retirement cabinet mockup

Retirement cabinet mockup to the left of shop door



Guest book & "contest"

Table saw island with Guest Book and "free gifts" drawing


To encourage folks to give up their names & addresses, a group of artists —LOCA— are contributing art pieces to a drawing of several “Goodie Bags”. It seems to work. I got about 10-12 names in my guest book and 72 names from the drawing box.



Snack table

The Snack table w/Deb in control



Snack table detail

The real reason people come by.


For a treat, we offer fresh coffee, juice and home made cookies.

And that’s the end of the tour. I hope you enjoyed it.

I’d offer you a cookie & coffee but it really messes up the screen.

Read Full Post »

The Small woodworking guild I belong to opened a show of our furniture last week at a small gallery in a very small town about 40 miles away.  We haven’t had a show for about two years, so we were looking hard for a venue. There’s not a lot of galleries in this area of Central California (even though there are a ton of artists & craftspeople.)

This gallery, though small and out of the way, had a “good reputation” for drawing in lots of people — the owner has a giant mailing list. So we were all game for showing our work there for a month.  A prerequisite for guild members was that we had to have at least one — preferably two — wall pieces. There’s a lot more wall than floor.

So came time to set up the show, we all brought our stuff (less one member who flaked on us) and with direction from the owner, put things in place. Now keep in mind I said this gallery is very small (25’x25′??) but we all managed.

The problem for me, is that the gallery carries a lot of what I would call chotchkies(sp?) You know, more of a low level small craft item. My feeling is that these items should have been removed from the showroom but they weren’t. In fact many of them were used as accents for the furniture pieces — seriously detracting from the furniture itself. (I guess, these items are more of a seller item than our furniture pieces.)

Anyway, here’s some images of the gallery to show what I mean. You can decide for yourselves. Click on images for larger view and comments.

Read Full Post »

Ok, I stopped the work on the Retirement Cabinet… For what? So I could play with stains?
I really hate staining wood. It never turns out the way I think it should. (Please note my trials/tribulations with the Computer Station from… “mixing oil & water“)

I’m making a pair of bookcases — relatively simple ones — for a customer and I want to come close to the color of his Brazilian Cherry floor. I’m using Lyptus; a GMO wood — at least I think that’s what it is — some kind of hybrid of the Eucalyptus. The solid wood has a nice grain pattern similar to Mahogany and to this Brazilian Cherry (which is probably not a Cherry at all). The color is light, like white oak or Beech, with a bit of pink cast.

I did a stain sample for the customer:

Lyptus stain samples

Assorted stain configurations on solid Lyptus

Click on the image to get better detail.  My customer chose the configuration in the lower right hand corner.  Note that I am using only two stains in this process. Both are waterbased stains from General Finishes: “Black Cherry” and “Rosewood” The “stainbase” mentioned in the top samples is like a conditioner that helps control penetration.

The important thing about stain samples is that you need to finish the sample exactly the same as you will finish the final work. So, if you plan to spray the stain on the real thing, then spray the stain on the sample. And follow through with all the finishing steps — including any sanding, seal coats, & top coats.

Another thing is that if you are using both solids and plywood you should make samples on both because they absorb finish differently.  But, of course, when I did these samples, I didn’t have any Lyptus plywood. Too bad! Because the Lyptus plywood I got wasn’t/isn’t nearly as bright and defined as the solid. So I started another sample: Spraying on the Rosewood stain over raw plywood.

Rosewood stain on Lyptus ply

Lyptus Ply with Sprayed Rosewood; Wiped Black Cherry

It came out much darker & muddier than the solid wood sample. This image has the rosewood sprayed over the whole section. After it dried, I taped and wiped on/wiped off the Black Cherry on the lower half. Then finished as normal. I can’t say it looks too good. So, what to do? Well, make more samples, of course.

Because the above sample was dark & muddy, I decided to spray on Stainbase first to lighten up the color and, perhaps, allow the stains to penetrate the pores more than the flats.
(One thing I didn’t mention about the stainbase: General Finishes doesn’t make an actual “stainbase” — a solution into which one adds his own colorants to make a stain — so what I use & call “stainbase” is their “Natural” stain; a stain with no color in it. [is that an oxymoron?])

Anyway, I masked off some plywood and sprayed 1/2 with a single pass of the Stainbase, and the other half with two passes. Now, I wish I had pictures of these intermediate steps but I don’t, so trust me on this. I then wiped on/wiped off the Rosewood stain. I could see a little lightening in the color. After that dried, I wiped on/off the Black Cherry. Things didn’t look too bad.  There was no difference between the areas that had one pass of Stainbase or two passes So my plan was to just spray one pass of stainbase — to save time.

Now, here’s why it’s very very important to follow through with the finishing process EXACTLY as you will finish the final product:  After sealing and topcoating the samples, I noticed a distinct difference between the side with one pass of stainbase and the two pass side.

double pass is on the right

Even looking at this picture in lo-rez, it’s obvious the color difference.

So, what do we walk away with? Let someone else do your finishing!! No, No, No. Just be sure to follow through with all the sanding/finishing steps you plan to use on the actual piece. AND, if you’re using solid & plywood, be sure to make samples of both.

Read Full Post »

(Ya know, writing this in parts is kind of difficult…. I have to keep going back to my old posts to read where I left off.)

I may have said that the cabinet is  frame & panel construction on all four sides, with each side the same.

Elm Frames taped together

Elm frames taped together

So, this is kind of what it will look like — hopefully, I can find better material for the panels than cardboard.

Let’s see. First things first: I milled all the frame parts to thickness & width, then cut to length (straightening grain where possible as shown last time).

Construction is mortise & tenon. This time around, I used a Festool Domino* machine to cut the mortises. Clamping the frame pieces required a little different set up because they are rather narrow plus thinner than a typical 3/4″.

Mortising the stiles using the Domino machine

Mortising the Stiles

The frames are only 9/16″ thick so I had to use some Formica laminate to shim them into a position where the cutter would be centered on the edge. The clamping set-up helps keep the stile against the machine, but mostly, it presses the stile down to the table so the mortise is cut in the middle.  I have a scrap piece of frame against the Domino so the wood clamp mechanism doesn’t rack. Looking closely you can see the plywood spacer used to position the end of the stile in relation to the cutter. (There’s an indexing pin on either side of the cutter that can’t be seen here.)

Mortising stiles for center rail

Mortising stiles for center rail

Mortising for the center rail required some changes. First off, I used a thicker cutter — 6mm vs 5mm — and I added the extensions shown so I could index the cut further away from the end.  I prefer some kind of fixed stop like this or a block of wood rather than a pencil line because it removes any guess work or chance of error about where the cut should go.  Well, usually it does:

Mortising boo-boo

Mortising boo-boo

The Domino machine can cut three widths of mortise. After cutting for the bottom rail which is wider, I reset the width on the machine, but forgot to change the spacer block. Oops!

Next step is to cut the tenons.

Cutting shoulder on the rails

Cutting the shoulders on the rails

All the rails have been cut to a length that includes an extra 1-1/4″ to allow for 5/8″ long tenons on each side. (I use a Forrest 80 tooth blade for almost all my crosscutting because it gives a very clean edge.)  My blade height is set just slightly higher than half the thickness of the needed tenon. This way, I don’t have to do a lot of clean-up where the shoulder meets the tenon. (So, for example, if my tenon needs to be 5mm thick, I’ll try to set the blade to leave 4.8mm of thickness at the bottom of the tenon at the shoulder.)

After cutting shoulders, I cut the cheeks:

Cutting the tenon cheeks on the table saw

Cutting the tenon cheeks on the table saw

I have a Vega rip fence on my Rockwell table saw. The Vega has a nice micro adjust feature that allows me to fine-tune it’s distance from the blade so I get the tenon thickness exact. (Here I’m using the stock Combo blade that came with my Powermatic saw. It gives a smoother than expected rip cut.)  The fence also has a channel in the top for sliding various accessories along it. I built this simple Tenoning jig years ago out of scrap. It has served me very well.

After cutting the cheeks, I trim off the long edges of the tenons on the bandsaw. (No pic) Then I round the long edges with a Swedish single cut mill file.

Rounding the tenons

Rounding the tenons

I fit each tenon to a specific mortise. assemble the frames, and check for square.

Next I’ll mortise the leg blanks and cut tenons on the front & back leg rails (stretchers).

Domino Mortising leg

Mortising the legs for upper stretcher

Mortising for bottom stretcher

Mortising for bottom stretcher

Mortises in legs

Mortises in legs; jig still in place

The stand’s legs are still square & haven’t been sawn to shape. I made up a jig that references off the top & inside face of a pair of legs (back legs in this case). I’ve rotated the legs so the two surfaces that face each other (left to right vs front to back) are up & ready to receive the mortise. I’ve marked on the jig the center lines of each mortise. (If you were able to look closely at the lines, you would see that they are not equidistant from the inside edge of the leg. This is because the bit does not cut an equal distance from the scribed line on the machine. The lines are about 0.7mm off center and there appears to be no fix for it [see * below].)  For the second set of mortises, I add a spacer. I have two dowels in the edges to maintain alignment and I’ve extended the reference lines.  The last picture shows the mortises complete.

The work on the Stretchers’ tenons is similar to the frame tenons so I don’t have any pics.

The Retirement Cab has to sit idle for a while now so I can catch up on a couple of paying projects.

* I bought the Festool Domino machine the day it went on sale. I really like it for what it does. But it has two flaws that don’t seem to have any fix.
1) The cutting bit (looks kind of like a brad point drill bit) seems to “climb” in the mortise. This means that the mortise is not perfectly parallel to the referencing fence (be that the table as in the earlier pictures or the jig in the last pictures) In this project, it’s not so bad & I can sand out any problems. But if I were cutting facing mortises & using a loose tenon,to join them, the error would double.
2)  The second flaw is mentioned above: the center reference lines (of which there are three on three different surfaces) do not indicate the exact center of the cut. So in some cases, I have to adjust my cut to get it centered. Now if I’m using the indexing pins mentioned at the very beginning, one of the pins is excentric and can be rotated on it’s axis to correct for this error. But the “wings” I used for the center mortises don’t adjust so I again have to make corrections via trial & error.  For such an expensive machine, it’s a pain.

When I created the link to the Festool site, I found that they have come out with a new model that’s slightly different to mine. Maybe they’ve corrected these problems (but probably not).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »