Sunday, April 21, 2013

Krenov Comments - Part 1

I’ve had to make a fair bit of travel for the day job lately, so I found myself with lots of reading time…a.k.a. hours and hours spent in airports and on planes.  While not the most comfortable place to lounge with a good read, I have been using the time to finally take in James Krenov’s “A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook.”

I don’t believe that I’ve met another woodworker who isn’t inspired by Krenov’s pieces, moved by his words and challenged by his passion and methods of work.  It was a sad day on 9/9/09 when we all learned of his passing.  As I dug into “A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook” I became interested in tracking down some of his other works.  I remember seeing a copy of “With Wakened Hands” in a bookstore many years ago and now I kick myself for not purchasing it then.  The only copies I can find online are used and are fetching quite a price…over $200 in some places.
As difficult as it is to find copies of some of his books, it was incredibly easy to uncover a multitude of articles and quotes online.  While surfing for an affordable price on “With Wakened Hands” (still not found) I came across several interviews that really got me thinking about the man and his life of woodworking.  Today I’ll share this quote to consider for thought…

"...form is only a beginning.  It is the combination of feelings and a function; shapes and things that come to one in connection with the discoveries made as one goes into the wood, that pull it together and give meaning to form."

There are several accounts of how “Old Jim” would often set boards on end, leaning against the wall so that he could look at them for extended periods of time, sometimes days, weeks, even months…just waiting for the wood to reveal shapes in their grain and tone to inform him of what he should fashion them into.

I’ve only done something similar a few times over the years.  I’m now considering setting some space aside to display several of the more special pieces from my wood collection so that they are always on display…quick to come to mind, waiting to inspire.

How many of you have tried this before, or are moved to try it now, knowing that one of the greatest masters of our craft produced some of his most famous designs by observing and waiting…thinking and dreaming…and maybe even stubbing a toe on those boards he left laying around from time to time?  

Have you ever been struck by a piece with such a striking pattern or form that you knew exactly what it should be used for?  I have a pair of book-matched, Padauk boards that are screaming out to become the doors of a cabinet, consequently in the same design aesthetic as Old Jim himself.
So go on then…step into your shop and find that special slab of lumber that you bought and have been holding onto “just because.”  Set it on display, in full view.  Let your eye and your mind wander to that piece and really consider what it should become.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More Happy Mistakes

In the spirit of celebrating those little missteps that make us rethink, reevaluate and recover, I offer you three Padauk boxes that have been sitting on my unfinished projects shelf for some time now.

These boxes are made from a couple of very special Padauk boards with both heartwood (red) and sapwood (white.)  The intent was to have the transition line between heartwood and sapwood wrap around all four corners.  For any of my long-time readers, you may remember this…

I’ve since learned a different way to achieve this effect with some creative resawing, however that doesn’t solve the issue with two of these three boxes.
The first step to my solution was to rip away a band of material, around all four sides of the boxes, that would capture the transition line all the way around.  A little clean up with a sharp chisel afterwards and my mismatched corners are nothing but a memory…a well documented memory, but still.
I then pressed the Thin Rip Jig into service (find this little gem at ) to cut inlay strips from some quartersawn Wenge stock.

I decided to experiment with two different looks.  Some of the inlay features the face (tight grain lines) and some of it shows off the wilder edge grain surface.
I attempted to trim the inlay pieces, with mitered corners to match the box joinery, on the table saw.  The pieces are so small and the Wenge is so brittle that many of the cuts chipped out…very ugly!  If you’re looking to spend a little bit more of your woodworking allowance (You do get one, right?  J) you can pick up this great little Razor Saw and miter box from for about $30.

The Razor Saw gave me perfect, clean miter cuts.  I worked my way around the sides of the boxes, cutting each piece precisely to fit.

Every now and then a little tuning was required on the cordless sander.

Once all four pieces were cut I taped them up into a dry fit to test all of the mitered joints.

Then it was time to lock it all in with the glue and clamps.

I left the inlays just a little proud in thickness so that I could trim them flush once the glue had cured.  The box that does have a successful transition around all four corners was left alone.  I make mistakes, but I’m no dummy!
Dad’s old Lie-Nielsen chisel plane did a great job paring down the Wenge strips.

Then it was back to the cordless sander to clean up all of the surfaces.
I find myself using this piece of plate glass with sandpaper on most of my smaller projects now.  It’s a great way to turn a piece of sandpaper into a fine tuning tool, and it doesn’t make any noise…perfect for those late night, gotta-get-some-shop-time sessions that occur when the rest of the family is asleep.

Tune in next time to see how we’ll put a lid on these boxes and move them from the unfinished project shelf for good!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Filling the Gap

After the unfortunate “Bit Slipping Incident of 2013” I was inspired to a solution by some time away from the problem, and found great confirmation in my online, woodworking brothers and sisters.  This gap can be patched and the box side saved!

I marked the corner of the groove with a Sharpie to emphasize the grave nature of the dilemma.
To size the patch correctly I used blue tape to form a pattern of the side wall of the groove so that the shape needed could be transferred to the replacement stock.

I then applied the pattern to an extra piece of the salvaged Oak.

Using a gel pen, I traced the pattern onto the side of the piece and marked out the length and width needed on the face.

After ripping the part to width on the table saw I made the final cuts to add the mitered angles and bring the piece to the final length.

A little fine tuning on my “cordless” sander…

…and the patch slips right into place.

A little glue and the deed was done.  After curing overnight, the piece was ready to be re-cut at the router table.

Given the sour reputation of the Hitachi M12V and it’s 1/4 inch collet insert sleeve, I opted to install the DeWalt DW621 in the router table.  The 621 is actually my favorite router (not sure why they stopped producing it) however, I’ve had the Hitachi in my router table for so long that I didn’t think to switch it out.  I was reminded of one of the features that make the 621 so special.  While re-cutting the grooves in all of the box sides I ran a vacuum line to the dust port on the router and the cuts were virtually dust free.  With the exception of running larger profile bits, the Hitachi may not see much duty in the router table for a long time to come. 

Sorry Big Green…

…but Ole Yeller gets the nod.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Slip of the Bit

This past weekend I experienced one of those days when I was really excited to be out in the shop.  I was anxious to try a new technique of making fitted lids for some boxes that are in the works.  I had watched a video online several times, making sure that I had accounted for all of the steps.
Then it was time…

Bit selected…check!
Router set up…check!

Test piece selected and marked…check!

I even traveled to the Fourth Dimension to set the max bit height on my test piece.

The first step of this process is to route a groove in all of the inside surfaces of the box, before assembly and glue-up.  In this case I’m routing a 3/8 inch wide groove to a depth of half the thickness of the box walls…5/16 of an inch for these boxes.

My plan was to route these grooves in three passes to reach the final depth.  My test piece and the first box part were successful on the first pass.  Upon routing the second part (one of the longer sides of the box) I noticed a little different sound and feeling as I came to the end of the cut.

I shut down the router and examined the piece…oh man!  As I pushed this part over the router bit it had gradually slipped up and cut my groove deeper and deeper along the length of the piece.  It would not have been too drastic had it not gone beyond the final depth I was shooting for, however…

Start of the cut…
End of the cut…
At this point all excitement became frustration.  I was sure that this piece was ruined and that all my planning was for naught.  I decided it was time to step away before I tried to fix it and make it worse. J

The time away has been very fruitful though.  By stepping away and giving the problem some good thought I believe I have a very workable solution that will allow me to salvage this piece and complete the box.  Stay tuned for a post on that process!

The time away (surfing the internet) also revealed that a common cause of a slipping router bit is the presence of any debris or rust on the bit shank or collet.  Sure enough I did find a little bit of dust and rust on the collets of my M12V router.  A little WD-40 bath and a good wiping have them cleaned up nicely.  I also learned that the M12V has a reputation for slippage when using 1/4 inch shank bits because you’re using a 1/4 inch collet insert inside of the 1/2 inch collet.  My DeWalt DW621 has dedicated collets for both 1/4 and 1/2 inch shanks, so I believe I'll swap routers when I’m ready to finish routing these grooves.

It’s always frustrating to see a plan fall apart or experience an error where you weren’t expecting it.  The key is to take a step back, stay calm and give it some thought.  Solutions will come to those who look for them and ask the right questions.  I’ll confess to getting a little angry and sulking for a few minutes, but if you’re passionate about something you’ll come back to it quickly, renewing your focus and digging in to repair or even reinvent.  Don’t give up!