Category Archives: furniture design

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

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It has been far too long since I have contributed to my blog. I am a little ashamed to say that it has slipped from my conscious thought for several months now.

So then, I offer this little….ok, who am I fooling….this long winded update.

The kind folks at Highland Woodworking have inexplicably continued to accept and actually publish my daft ramblings. This is one reason why I have been remiss in my blogging duties. I have been submitting articles in my “Roubo bench Build With a Twist” series for the online magazine, as well as some various meandering musings for their blog. It has been a lot of fun working with an actual editor (now two editors) and I feel my writing is better for the effort.

I have done several “cameo appearances” at a few of the local shops here in town. These tend to be of limited duration and can either be really fun and rewarding, or dull and frustrating. Either way, they all help to keep the lights on, feed my tool addiction, and keep me off the streets. Even the less than positive gigs are educational and help me appreciate the work that I do in The Tiny Shop.

Speaking of The Tiny Shop, The Roubo has some fresh dings and dents now. I absolutely love the pair of benches I have in the shop. Even though they are both Nimitz class aircraft carrier size, they each have their own personality and each have their own quirks. Someday, mark my words, there will also be a Nicholson-English style bench in the shop too. However, that will need to wait until I have the actual shop space to accommodate a trio of full size work benches. Overkill? I think not.

I have been doing quite a bit of restoration and repair work from The Tiny Shop. While it is a means of keeping food in the belly, it is also a minor distraction from developing some prototypes that I continue to mull over. There are a couple of small tables, a set of small nesting tables, a chair design and also a rocker that I would like to prototype and move forward in their development. I just have not had the time or the material to get cracking on these yet. With warmer weather becoming more consistent though, I am hopeful that this spring and summer will see the return of my furniture designing and building in earnest.

On the more literary side of things, keep an eye out for an up coming series or articles I am working on. It is an interview with my former wood shop teacher and longtime friend, Don Rauh. Don has some things to say, and has always been one to “tell it like it is.” The series is shaping up to be quite interesting indeed.

So there you have it folks, just a little update on the Madcap Woodwright’s ongoing adventures. As always, I continue to work wood with joy and abandon because life is just too damn short.

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Refreshed

Above is the before/after of the Art Deco -ish dresser I rehabbed a while back. Next up was it’s bigger brother, a dresser/vanity combo.

Both pieces had some significant veneer damage. Some I could repair, and some were just too far gone.

Over all, with a quick rehab, rather than restoration, I think they turned out rather nice.

Madcap-ery Interrupted

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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.

 

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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.

 

As It Is Written……….

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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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“Ahhhhhhh……Bach”

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This morning was one of those wonderful mornings that one simply must savor.

LOML and I awoke and only had two “must do items” on our list. First, we sauntered to a tiny little breakfast joint we love. It’s claim to fame being their home made biscuits. Their biscuit breakfast sandwiches joined by a rich and flavorful cup of locally roasted coffee are just the thing to start the day.

After that, it was off to the grocery store for some much needed provisioning.

That was it for the day….well for me at least. LOML then had to forge ahead and work a Saturday shift at her job.

This left me with a full belly, a bright, sun drenched, nearly 65 degree January day, all to myself.

A perfect day to go out to the tiny shop and just….putter.

One thing that I am an ardent believer in, is the correct music selection for blatant “puttering”.

Having an aestheticly pleasing Tiny Shop requires the appropriate “sonic flavor” if it is destined to be a pleasingly productive shop.

Because there is precious little to be managed in the Tiny Shop, (save for a new motor for my poor little Delta jointer), and no major projects on the docket, puttering seemed to me to be just what the doctor ordered.

The music selection started off with a nice dose of Joe Walsh and the James Gang. Purely to get the juices flowing. Followed up by a nice selection of Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding.

The puttering tasks were menial. Fixing a hinge on the Tiny Shop’s main door, futzing with the shop vac and several lengths of shop vac hose and integrating them with a cyclonic separator I have for the shop vac. Sipping coffee…..sitting on my bench stool…..looking around the Tiny Shop for other anal retentive tasks to perform…..a fantastic way to start the day.

Truely a morning to be savored before enjoying the afternoon.

Now, I am a rhythm and blues kind of guy. R&B, soul, streight up blues, sometimes some reggae, and always Rock and Roll.

Today….well, as the day matured into afternoon, I felt the day dictating something different for me.

Dear reader, please indulge me a short bunny trail. I promise it will circle back nicely to my current ramblings.

My dear grandmother on my mother’s side was a classical music consumer of epic proportions. She and my grand father had a wonderful collection of vinyl records representing both the best of composers as well as recordings of some of the finest performances of their handiwork.

She was also a fan of the t.v.show M.A.S.H. In one particular episode, the character “Radar” was getting dating advice from Hawkeye, or Trapper John, or both.

When the subject of how best to manage conversation with  a lady whose interests include classical music, and if the subject of Bach should come up, Radar was encouraged to keep it simple and just utter the response “ahhhhhhh…. Bach”. My grandmother LOVED this scene and this phrase became something of a family motto.  When the whole family gathered, it was a rare time indeed, that you did not hear someone say this.

So it was this afternoon that I had a hankering for some classical music to take me into the last hours of the warmth of the sun, and the peace of puttering in the Tiny Shop.

What to listen to? With the miracle of streaming music, there is so much to choose from.

Then it hit me.

Ahhhhhhh…… Bach.

A perfect choice for the perfect end to the perfect day of perfectly puttering.

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…”WE INTERRUPT THIS MANIFESTO”……..

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As I work on finishing a draft of the first installment of the MADCAP MANIFESTO, I have gotten in the habit of switching over to Craigslist or whatever to peruse tools that I need, might need, want, would like to have, don’t need, but will eventually buy etc.  Work on the first installment of the manifesto has proven to be an exercise in writer’s block, as I have a great deal to say, but am struggling to sort it all out in an intelligent manner.

Anyone who has been following this blog knows what a hopeless woodworking tool … ahem …enthusiast I am. I use that statement as a qualifier because what follows is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me Rockwell Delta.

I stumbled on a post on Craigslist that was simple enough. “Woodworking tools” . These posts normally contain various bits and scraps of cheap throw away hobbyist tools. Sometimes though, they can contain pure gold…..

It seems that a man in a town about 30 miles from me lost his father, an engineer by trade and life long amateur woodworker, to the ravages of time and old age. (Rest in peace). The son and his brothers had all grown and established their own tool collections, so what the Dad had left behind was to be sold.

A couple of really choice machines were for sale at reasonable prices. A Grizzley 15″ planer, a 1955 Craftsman (built by the Atlas Tool Works) 17′ bandsaw, and…..drum roll please…..a 1948 Delta Unisaw..

The son mentioned that his post had been on Craigslist for the better part of 6 weeks with virtually zero interest. In fact, I was only the second person to contact him about any of the tools.

It was the Unisaw I was interested in. For the uninitiated, the Delta Unisaw, especially the pre and immediately post war vintages, are the undisputed Rolls Royce of table saws. They are built with old world attention to detail. Castings were poured into molds, then removed after cooling and buried in sand for two years prior to being milled flat for assembly and sale. This practice ensured that any movement that the table castings or arbor castings would suffer from (twist, warp, cupping, bowing) would occur prior to final milling and finishing and remain true for their life thereafter. Motors were heavy and powerful. They develop an enormous amount of torque despite their anemic horsepower ratings. Better in EVERY WAY than anything built today short of a saw from Germany or Switzerland.

So it was that I entered into half hearted negotiations with this man. Surely he would want to stick to his asking price of nearly $500. Besides, LOML, would never cotton to my bringing home another  dusty old relic that would duplicate what was already in the Tiny Shop.

In talking with the son, he discussed how weary he was of waiting to move this piece of iron. He said he is just looking for the right person to come along, someone who knew what a gem this machine was. Someone who would use it, not just resell it or *GASP* part it out. It was his intention at this point, he said, to let the saw go for the first reasonable offer to such a person. I was beside myself.

The FIRST thing I needed to do was delicately explain to my sainted wife, WHY I needed…not wanted….neeeeeded, this saw. She must have seen the desperation in my eyes since she made a deal with me. If I could sell the General now installed in the tiny Shop, I could have the Unisaw. No disposable income was available for a purchase like this, and whatever funds I could get for my General, were all we had for an offer on the Unisaw.

GAME ON!!!!

In 24 hours, I had the general sold for $50 more than I had paid for it originally, and was locked in to a price with the Unisaw seller that allowed me to remain on speaking terms with my beloved wife.

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Above is a picture taken moments after the arrival of the “table saw de tuti table saw”. 430 pounds of purring smooooooothness. This is prior to any clean up, I have only gotten the extension wings re-attached and the motor rewired by the time I snapped this picture.

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Lovely clean and dead flat top.

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Behold! An all original Delta miter guage

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The Bullet. 90-some pounds of torque, ummph, and coniferous carnage. Just not made like this any more.

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Can I get an…..AMEN!!!!

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Just a little art deco to bring some class and panache into the Tiny Shop.

Ok, I should go now. I have honey-do’s to do, and also need to chip away at the first installment of The Madcap Manifesto. Stay tuned for that!!!!!

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I Can Finally Call It A “BENCH”!

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So, does anyone notice anything……different in this picture?  It’s subtle, I know. That is, if the word subtle can be used in a sentence under a picture of this epically overbuilt workbench.

Today, the Fed Ex driver delivered a 45 pound box to my very doorstep. “Oh my”, I exclaimed. “Whatever in the world could THIS be”?

Much to my delight, enclosed in the battered and broken box, was a vintage Craftsman/Columbian 10 inch, quick release vise.

OH JOY OF JOYS!

OH DREAM OF DREAMS!

As many of you already know, one of the bits of minutia that I have been fretting over was what vise(s) to put on this workbench of mine, to finish it off and make it truly usable.
I had been considering the classic, “old school” front and end vises that you would normally see on a Scandinavian/Continental bench, but I had mounted these on my first bench and found them to be “rack-master-5000’s”. That is to say, they would rack and bind in their mountings and cause much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Then the focus turned to the Record line of all steel vises made in Sheffield, England. These are wonderful, pass on to your great, great grandchildren vises. Since anything that resembles the old Record company and/or their fine metalwork has been long gone for nearly ten years now, it is pretty much EBAY or dumb luck as far as getting your hands on one of these. Even if a suitable example can be found, the cost would lead one to think that they are forged from solid gold ingots….wholly unsatisfactory.

There are high quality clones from out friends in the far east as well as from the former Czech Republic. Reasonably priced, and more than adequate for the job.

Then I finally caved in and, in a state of desperation, began scouring Ebay for something old, something heavy, something made from steel that was mined from these here United States.

While going through my normal “find something promising, google it, learn all I can about it” fits, I found a brand that seemed to be in fairly good supply. Columbian Vise Co.

Columbian vises are regarded as the American version of the Record vises. They are hugely overbuilt, made from very high quality MURRICAN (American) steel, and have been around since the late 30’s to about the late 70’s. Examples of their 10 inch vise were selling quickly on “The Bay” The game changing reason I became interested in this option, was the fact that these vises were manufactured in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio.

As I did my due diligence dance, I discovered that Columbian also rebranded their flagship vise for Sears Roebuck. Virtually identical to Columbian’s top of the line woodworking vise in every way….except for peoples interest in one on Ebay. Surely there had to be some reason these were not being snapped up by vintage tool enthusiasts…right? There had to be some sort of catastrophic defect in them to drive people away from buying them.

Researching further, I asked this question on several woodworking forums. It is in the pages of these forums that I normally can find answers and confirmation of those answers, just by using the search function. This time though, I needed to be specific, so I posted my question and got next to no responses. Except for one guy who used to work for Sears. He told me that, yes these were indeed nearly identical to the Columbian flagship vise, and that the only differences were in the casting of the Craftsman brand name in the face, and a little extra metal added to the chop faces. Otherwise, exactly the same.

I confirmed this with another fellow on a separate forum who has one of each. No real difference in the vises. All parts are totally interchangeable.

After finding this out, I was bent on obtaining either a Columbian or Craftsman 10 inch, quick release vise, and I was not going to pay anything remotely close to retail for it….

In just a few short hours, and one or two aborted attempts to negotiate the securement of several sub-par vises, I stumbled on a vintage (c.1964) Craftsman/Columbian. The seller stated they really didnt know much about it other than it had been in storage a very long time. I circumvented the normal bidding process and contacted the seller directly with an embarrassingly low offer…..i’m talking really, really low.

The response left me dumbfounded. The said that my offer would be fine since they had had the thing listed for some time with no bites. They needed the boat anchor gone.

So this is all well and good since the condition appeared in the pictures to be better than any of the other examples I had seen.

Here is where it gets interesting……

When I opened the box this morning, there was inside, ….. another box! THE original box. Not only that, but upon inspection of the vise, I discovered that the darned thing had NEVER BEEN MOUNTED. It was brand new, in the box, with the original paperwork.

Hows that for thrifty?

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There she is folks….a BRAND NEW COLUMBIAN/CRAFTSMAN 10 inch, quick release woodworkers bench vise, mounted in it’s new habitat, ready to finally be used as intended.

EDIT:
Below is a picture I added for reference. It is a picture of the Columbian version of my new vise but in RESTORED CONDITION.

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Anyhow, now I can finally say I built a functioning WORKBENCH!

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