Category Archives: design

“He Who Hesitates……”

……procrastinates indefinitely.

 

It’s not that I am lazy, It’s more a case of having a lot of ideas and not knowing how to put order to them.

Since the first of the year I have been off to a good start with my level of productivity. I have discovered that I am quite adept at disgorging myself of various literary ideas now that I have cajoled an actual periodical to publish some of my ramblings. No shortage of copy for Highland Woodworking’s online magazine of blog.

Nor have I been lacking in the work to do in The Tiny Shop. Since the phonograph refinish, I have had a string of small furniture repairs and/or refinishes. Throw in another workbench build, and you are up to date with my current state of workshop projects.

Aside from a few model train display cases and the long promised step stool for my dear wife, I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Now what?

Well, that is where things are getting a little sticky. I really need to get some furniture built as prototypes and proof of concepts. I have been wanting to get some things built not only as a means of developing some design ideas, my take on some more traditional styles, but also as fodder for my photographer son to take some beauty shots of for a hypothetical website for The Tiny Shop.

Since I have yet to actually put pencil to paper in many months, I am relegated to my minds eye for developing ideas. This poses a bit of a problem, you see I tend to bounce from idea to idea and end up with a collection of fractured ideas bouncing around in my melon.

Best to choose one, and get on with it.

My intention is to build one of three ideas I have right now. The first is the glove table I had mentioned in a previous post. Next idea would be a blanket chest for my dear wife.

Last, and most fear inducing is the design and construction of a wall unit for our basement family room. Our house is on the verge of being too large for us, but with my 18 year old son having moved in with us this summer, the wall unit may be a good way of making the largely unused family room a little more warm and inviting for him during his stay with us, and an investment in our future use of the space once he moves on to his inevitable world domination tour sometime in the future.

Decisions, decisions.

yinyang

 

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Madcap-ery Interrupted

writersblock

Sure as shit….just as soon as I post here that I am writing a “book,” I come down with the most horrendous, unending, torturous case of writers block that I have had to date.

No matter what, as soon as I would sit down to write, my mind that had moments ago been filled with the most brilliant and innovative or profound topics and notions just decides to delete any semblance of coherent text.

I would sit and try to put anything I could down. ANYTHING. Sometimes even getting a page or two tip-tapped out on my lovely new Thinkpad. Once or twice I even had a session or two where I had nearly an entire chapter of this thing written.

Then I would reread what I had written…..

The horror….the horror.

Finally, I set the Thinkpad aside and tried to write in longhand. Anything to get ideas that seemed to be just out of reach, fleshed out in some way. A word, a sentence, a phrase….anything. All to no avail.

So, in an effort to get the creative juices flowing again I write this blog post to whine about having lost my voice.

The bright side may be that, in having this wretched case of writers block, AGAIN, I am forced to take my own advice and simply be in the moment. Perhaps I should view these many months as a needed recharging of the creative batteries.

Speaking of creativity, I have finally been doing some light restoration work in the Tiny Shop.

I have a friend who rescued a couple of Art Deco pieces from being consigned to the landfill. He got a dresser and also a combination vanity/dresser that were obviously a set just for the cost of picking them up.

they both have some water damage and also some veneer issues, but I have been able to bring the dresser back to life and work is starting on the vanity/dresser now.resto

This piece still had the original mid-century Bakelite handles. It is back together and just got swapped for the soon-to-be-refreshed vanity.

I am excited to see how these two look side by side. I will be sure to snap a couple of before pictures and post them here.

So while the restoration/refreshing pieces are fun and all, what I really want to do is start building some furniture of my own.

When I say “my own,” What I really  mean to say is that I will more than likely be building clones, or my take on pieces that interest me. This is an ongoing method of mine. I start by putting together classic design pieces, and end up sketching and eventually craving to build variations on that particular theme.

For example, I have long wanted to build this.

 

moserdesk1moserdesk2

This is a “Stand Up Desk” by Thos. Moser of New Gloucester Maine. It is on my short list of “to-build pieces.

I also want to build a blanket chest for The Love Of My Life,blanketchest

as well as a glove table for our entry to the house.glovetable

So while I may be somewhat hamstrung by my literary ineptitude, i do have a great deal I wish to get built out in The Tiny Shop to help salve my seemingly empty head.

 

Madcap Brain Goo

This blog has been a source of great joy for me. It has been the well spring for a lot of creative ideas.

When I first started The Madcap Woodwright, it was on a whim and really had no direction other than as a platform for whatever random thoughts I had.

It has seemed to morph from the run of the mill DIY/woodworking/tool junkie/word puke, into something much more philosophical and substantive.

In the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years, I will be delving more.deeply into the ongoing grab bag of thoughts and ideas I have been working with lately.

In a recent post, I mentioned the latest project that this blog has spawned. Work on that manuscript continues, but I am finding the urge to blog a louder siren song just now.

In any event, stay tuned. I’ll be making a more concerted effort to distill some “Madcap brain goo” to pour into the vessel that is The Madcap Woodwright.

Writer’s Block Sucks…

dalai-lama-caddyshack

Since I had been using my poor, much overtaxed, little tablet to do the majority of my writing since starting this blog, I had a built in excuse to avoid the subject of the dreaded “Writer’s Block.”

Now that I have obtained an incredible, new-to-me, Lenovo Thinkpad, I no longer have technical difficulties as an excuse for the denial I have been wallowing in regarding the case of writer’s block I have.

So, while I have been remarkably negligent in my writing, I am now, as they say, “Back in the saddle.”

Attempting to get myself back in the game, I figured I would whip something up for this blog as a means of stirring up the creative juices, and reconnect with my muse.

Thus far, I have been somewhat mired in finishing off the equipping of The Tiny Shop, and doing some light restoration work to keep the mind and hands supple and well practiced.

I had the good fortune to find a deal on a brand new 1 1/2 HP motor for my Delta jointer, and it is now semi operational. I need to dial in the knives still, but otherwise it is fairly tuned and ready to do real woodworking finally. wpid-wp-1444014009777.jpg

 

Also, after much research and hand wringing, I decided that using the tried and true HVLP conversion set up that I had been using for years for applying finish was just not in keeping with my position on environmental responsibility. Further, It just had far too much in the way of “tweaking” that always seemed to need to be done in order to get the level of quality I wanted in a finish.

Add to that that I was planning a switch to water borne finish media, and the need for a different application tool was obvious.

 

Enter the Fuji Semi-Pro2.

fuji

The Fuji set up is a very well regarded turbine driven High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) system. The idea is, that with this small, self contained set up, over spray is kept to an absolute minimum,which means a significant boost in savings as it applies to material cost. Also, since there is no traditional compressor, oil, water, and other potential contaminants are no longer a worry.

Since the cup gun is stainless steel, (both the gun and the cup) I can shoot both solvent based finishes as well as water based finishes.

Word on the street about Fuji turbines is universally good. They are regarded as some of the very best finishing equipment at markedly reasonable prices. Far less than other manufacturers like Apollo, and Grayco. Bang for the buck, and considering the space limitations of The tiny Shop, this is a no brainer.

All that remains for initial equipment purchases are another router or two, a hollow chisel mortiser, and a dovetail jig.

I debated long and hard on these last two, expensive, pieces. I decided to add these to my “need to have” list because, as I have aged, hand cutting joinery has begun to take its toll on my hands/joints. As much as I enjoy hand cut joinery, I feel that from a longevity standpoint, it makes sense for me to mechanize these operations. Trust me, if I thought that I could continue indefinitely hand cutting my  joints, I would. It is a wonderful exercise in mindful woodworking. Alas, the ravages of a misspent youth and father time, are beginning to rear their ugly heads.

That, and it gives me two more tools to shop for…..so I got that going for me…..which is nice.

carl

 

 

 

As It Is Written……….

image

Todays blog post is an announcement of sorts.

During the last year, especially in the last six moths or so, I have felt that The Madcap Woodwright Blog has been an awesome medium to work out various thoughts and ideas I have had of late. I hope that you who read my meandering, sometimes actually sentiant, ramblings have enjoyed the experience.

Edit to say:
The Madcap Woodwright Blog will continue. It’s a bit of an addiction, so it’s not going away any time soon.

I say this because, after a good deal of thought and much hand wringing, I have decided to sit down and write a book.

Let me say right now, that I in NO WAY  would ever compare myself to Papa hemingway. Nor would I dare to proffer the notion that I am in any way the next James Krenov of the woodworking literature world.

I am writing this book for a couple of reasons.

First, I found that I have been writing a great deal about some fairly longwinded topics here on the blog. This will continue, but I wanted to divert to the book some topics that I have raised here, but wanted to explore more fully. A book seemed a logical way to do this.

Second, I wanted to write this book because…..well…..I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to see if I could do it and also to see if it were any good.
I am NOT doing this to make money. However, I will be self publishing it on Amazon Kindle among other digital platforms. Currently, there are no plans for hard copy versions to be printed, but if there is a demand, the platform I am using to format the manuscript allows me to create a format file that can then be used to provide “print on demand” hard copy books too……so there is that.

So far, I have an outline…see below….and a fairly solid start on my rough draft.

I am including the outline of chapters here. The working title is “The Madcap Woodwright, A Guide To Joyfully Working Wood With Abandon”.

I would welcome any comments or suggestions any of you may have after looking over the outline below.

Be advised, this outline is the roughest of drafts of the actual outline. It is more or less just an idea “sticky pad” that I am working from currently.

Please feel free to comment/suggest or share thoughts on content. No promises that it would be included in the final manuscript, but I am nothing if not shamelessly willing to take good ideas and run with them….HEE HEE….let the fun begin.

The Madcap Woodwright

A Guide To Joyfully Working Wood With Abandon

By John D. McBride

OUTLINE:

Introduction

Chapter 1 – It Takes A Madcap

A) For the greater good-

B) Rethinking traditional views on design and woodworking

C) Why elitism sucks

Chapter 2 – Life Is Too Short – 3 “Rules” to joyful woodworking and life

Don’t sweat the small stuff

B)  It’s ALL small stuff

C)  Always remember  1&2

Chapter 3 – The Madcap Workshop – Observations On Creating A Happy Place.

The Tiny shop – Why Aesthetics Count

Tooling

Recycle-reuse-repurpose

Handwork vs. Machine Work.

B)   Discover your muse, design your shop.

Chapter 4 – The Joy Of Design

Inspiration, where to find it and what to do with it

B)   Sketch, sketch, sketch!!!!

C)   Flying by the seat of your pants, and why it’s so important.

D)   The soothing of the inner anal retentive

Order of operation

Chapter 5 – Thoughts On Success and Failure.

Reexamining and redefining

B)   Progress, not perfection, freedom to make mistakes

C)   It’s not a mistake, till’ it can’t be fixed….It can always be fixed.

D) If you are not making any mistakes, you are not doing anything.

Chapter 6 – Bizarro Economy, The Madcap Woodwright’s Natural Habitat.

How an Arts and Crafts Revival might save the world

B)   Build it, and they just might come

C)   Defining value

Chapter 7 – More Than Madcap / Expanding Into The Community.

Responsible craftsmanship

B)   Find your tribe

C)   Thoughts on pragmatism, and why it’s overrated.

Chapter 8 – Moment By Moment / Mindful Woodworking

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Mindful Woodworking…or…The Tao of Working Wood

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For several months now, I have been considering my position as The Madcap Woodwright. This meditation is partially because the Tiny Shop is still not completely prepared for full operational status. Some time ago, after having adjusted my vintage Delta jointer, its motor decided to give up the ghost. I have been searching for it’s replacement ever since. So, while I can perform a wide range of operations, and have been engaged in some light restoration work, I am still not completely ready to turn the Tiny Shop and The Madcap Woodwright loose on the world just yet.

I think that part of the issue is that, in addition to having to manage some of my tooling issues,  I am more than a little bit uneasy about starting a business based on  such a non-traditional business model.

In reality, the business model is not all that radical. However, it does attempt to diverge from more traditional models in that, it’s primary focus is less about profit, and more about sustainability and satisfaction. Not just customer satisfaction, but also personal satisfaction. The two being dependent upon each other in my view.

Recently, a reader of this humble blog posted a lovely comment on the Madcap Manifesto post I put up a while ago. Dan H’s comment can be read in its entirety at the bottom of that post.

One portion of his comment summed up nicely, the notion of working for the internal reward verses the external rewards that are normally the driving force behind most business.

QUOTE:

“If I may, I’d like to add a little of my own thoughts. To borrow an analysis from a contemporary critic of modern culture, there are goods that are “external” to a practice and goods that are “internal” to a practice. One can engage in a practice merely to acquire certain external goods; wealth, fame, influence, etc. But, such goods are not uniquely connected to the practice. They can be acquired in many different ways. That’s why they are called external goods. If one is motivated by goods external to the practice he or she naturally will seek to be efficient, to cut corners, maybe even to cheat in order to get the goods.

On the other hand, one can seek to excel in a practice in order to achieve the goods that are internal to that practice. These are goods can only be achieved by participating and attempting to excel in the practice. Moreover, such a craftsman cannot cut corners, cannot cheat, to achieve such goods; it’s simply a contradiction. And, although difficult to prove, you are dead right that one way of doing it is more satisfying. Or, in your words, “…let the joy woodworking offers stand front and center.”
END QUOTE

The root of the Madcap Woodwright’s evolving philosophy summed in that second paragraph. It is the participation and the attempt(s) at excellence that contain the promise of the inner satisfaction that I’m after. But more than that, they are only the very root. There are some ancillary issues here too.

For example, a large part of my passion is also rooted in the desire to pass the love of woodworking on to others. I feel a need to develop my views and philosophies as they relate to woodworking in general, and Madcap Woodworking in particular. As it stands right now, one of my key messages is designed to liberate folks from the high handedness and eliteist dogma that have engulfed woodworking for so long. I feel moved to encourage anyone who will listen, to give themselves permission to just …work…the….wood. Yes, by all means do so with all your best efforts, be they focused on handcut dovetails, or building a shed. By all means, read the articles in Fine Woodwroking or Popular Woodworking or what ever. By all means, explore the lives of the craftsman who have gone before us. Just don’t become bogged in their way of doing things. Feel the freedom of exploring multiple options in both design and execution.

I thank Dan H. for responding the way he did. Not so much because he agrees with me, it’s more a case of gratitude for understanding.

Making peace with the reality of the potential responsibilities that come with promoting a, some would say, progressive view of how to approach woodworking, is proving to be a little more challenging than I first imagined. Be that as it may, I realize that it promises to be as rewarding as putting together a Tiny Shop, or cutting a dovetail, or scoring some vintage bit of woodworking machinery.

This piece seems to be a bit rambling. Clearly there is still work to be done as it relates to sifting through the various thoughts and bits of evolving philisophical perspective that I have. I have a foundational idea of how I view both the art/craft of working wood the way I do, I have a seed that has been planted in my spirit. It occurs to me that the resistance, slight as it may be right now, to moving forward and opening the doors of The Tiny Shop to the public might be the exact thing that may be hindering me from solidifying these philosophies?

In any case, rest assured that more navel gazing will occur as I continue to search out that replacement jointer motor. More thoughtful pondering will be forth comming after it is repaired and I go forth to procure a lovely little Delta shaper to round out my classic machine collection. Once I finally begin actually working wood more purposefully and the doors of The Tiny Shop are finally open for business, I suspect that more of the esoteric pieces shall fall into place.

Or….

Maybe the picture will change entirely….either way, its going to be fun getting back into the saddle. It’s going to be fun to be joyfully working wood with abandon again. Stay Tuned.

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The Madcap Manifesto – The Evolution of a Madcap Woodwright.

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Throughout my career as a professional cabinetmaker and woodwright, there has always been something of an unspoken understanding in the profession. Professional woodworkers are to be flannel clad, bearded, curmudgeons, with saw dust in their hair and a very serious “air” about them. Think Norm Abrams crossed with William F. Buckley, and you are pretty close to the normal perception of the professional woodworker. This holds true especially in recent years it seems.

When I decided (was “encouraged” by the love of my life) to open the tiny shop and to once again work wood professionally, I committed to myself that come hell or high water, I was NOT going to be the overly serious, cantankerous cranky pants that so many of my brothers and sisters seem to be these days.

Enter The Madcap Woodwright.

An unusual name for a business, I know. Many folks have commented to me that it may not be such a hot idea to name my fledgling business this way. The argument being that folks might not take me seriously, and that I may be looked at as less professional than I really am, and so on.

All perfectly valid points if you approach from a traditional point of view. I…..do not.

mad·cap

ˈmadˌkap/

adjective

1.

amusingly eccentric.

“a surreal, madcap novel”

synonyms:zanyeccentricunconventional

“a madcap comedy”

Because I find that modern woodworking is or has developed something of an …..attitude, I feel that it is high time someone who loves the craft takes a risk and tries to let the joy woodworking offers stand front and center.

Far too many of my cohorts take the art of woodworking far too seriously. Not the tooling, not the need for precision, not the care with which we carry the craft forward, more so that they take themselves far too seriously.

I am much more interested in showing people how much I love and adore working wood, rather than how much I think I should be loved and adored for working wood. This is the ugly little skeleton that can be found in many, many modern woodworker’s closets. Somewhere along the way, they stopped loving working wood for its own sake, and started down the path of entitlement.

“I have done this for years and years, I have written books on the subject. I give speeches and presentations……I DESERVE to be viewed as a deity”!!!!

Naturally, there are many professional woodworkers who DO NOT subscribe to this mindset. They may have written books or give presentations, but still it shows that they are in love with the fine art of woodworking. I find that far too many woodworkers, (a generation ahead of me, a generation or more behind me, and my own generation for that matter)seem to feel that they are due a respect and level of admiration because they take their craft so….seriously.

This is one of the reasons I felt compelled to depart from the norm. I am, by nature, unconventional. Rather than hide this personality anomaly,  I choose to embrace and project it out into the world. An unconventional and, dare I say, madcap notion to say the least.

Therefore, The Madcap Woodwright is dedicated to expressing creativity, craftsmanship, attention to detail in all the work that is produced from the Tiny Shop. Old world techniques, traditional woodworking, hand crafted pieces are all the primary objectives. The difference is, to the extent that I am able, I wish to share this more intimately with those who would do business with me. I wish to attract those patrons who enjoy a good cup of coffee, and a nice leisurely chat about design and joinery techniques.

I am less interested in “on demand” deadlines. I am not at all interested in “production level” woodworking. Anything that interrupts the synchronicity between woodwright-patron-design-execution, is to be avoided. I may never make a gazillion dollars, or  see any of my work on the cover of “Fine Woodworking” , but im just fine with that as long as I have had the chance to draw someone into my love of my craft. I am just fine with that as long as I have had the opportunity to spend some time with someone new, share a cup of Joe, listen to a little Sam Cooke out in the Tiny Shop, and talk design ideas. I am more than fine with that if, when all is said and done, a patron and I stand ankle deep in fresh wood shavings running our hands over a newly completed piece, both of us smiling.

Call me a madcap, but that sure seems infinitely more rewarding than self promotion, and book sales. Sure, it is always nice to be appreciated for what you do or have done. Yes, It is wonderful to be paid well for doing something that you enjoy.  Absolutely I would love to be known for a very high level of craftsmanship. But I feel that in order to bring the level of honesty and integrity to my work that I insist on, it needs to be done with joy, abandon, and a sense of humor. Without these things, I feel that a woodwright risks a loss of “soul”.

Perhaps it is foolhardy to approach business this way. Perhaps it is more sensible to leave “work with soul” to amateurs and hobbyists, but I am convinced that there is very little about working wood as a trade, that is sensible. That is of course, unless you really and truly love what you do, and really and truly want to pass that love on to others. In that case, there is no more sensible thing to do but, be…..a Madcap Woodwright.

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