Tag Archives: crafts

“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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A Roubo is born.

I am putting this one picture up here because I just can’t resist.

However, I have committed to providing the actual “bench build” as a series of articles for Highland Woodworking for use in their online magazine. (Highlandwoodworking.com)

So, as each installment is to be published, I will be sure to leave word here so you, my dear readers, can enjoy the Chronicles of the Madcap Roubo Build.

In the meantime……Behold, the beauty of Roubo!!!

Makers Gonna Make

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With the onslaught of negativity and strife that my country, as well as many others, seems to be embroiled in, I felt the tug of the Muse to jot down some thoughts that might bring a little smile or even a wholesale perspective change to someone.

lately I have been keeping something of a low profile on social media. In these pages here, I have been pretty good about keeping my personal beliefs and feelings about politics, media, pop culture, and any of the other distractions that most of us, if we were to be honest with ourselves, indulge in out of the mix.

Make no mistake, I have some very profound beliefs about the above listed topics, but it all pales in comparison to my passion for being a woodwright. Further, as I have expanded out into the germinating world of the artisanal, I have developed a growing passion for the community that seems to be developing around “Making.”

Somewhere along the line the word Making and Maker evolved from simply being a conjugation of the verb make, into a movement.

Artisans and craftspeople are commonly being refered to as Makers. Fine, works for me.

In previous posts I discussed how generations younger than my own, have begun exploring the path less traveled. They have elected to take up woodworking or blacksmithing or glass blowing. They have explored artisanal distilling or brewing. They have taken to crafts baking or cooking. Anything but following the well-worn and traditional path of going to school. Taking on crushing debt to get the diploma and social network that higher education promises has taken a back seat to self-determination and self-education.

I am encouraged by this small, but passionate community. In small numbers I see people who are engaging their life with fearlessness. They may be doing so out of necessity, or out of an intuition that the normally followed path to career and family and “adulthood” has run its course. They may share in my observation that life is just too fucking short to be shackled to the seeming safety of the 9 to 5 to retirement means of living a life.

Granted, most of these folks are 20 years or more my junior. They do not have a mortgage, or kids, or other traditional obligations to provide for. It took a divorce, a remarriage, and a spouse who supports my need to make and to create for me to sit here and preach the gospel of “Madcap Woodworking.”

That is what makes these up-and-commers so amazing in my eyes. They just don’t care about the pressures that come with the traditional path. At a much earlier stage in the great game of life, they seem to grasp the wisdom of exploration and creativity at a gut level. They seem to understand that there is so, so, so much more to life than just the college you graduate from, the car you drive, the house you cover your head with or the amount of liquid capitol you have on hand at any one time. They improvise, they adapt, they share, they collaborate. They succeed.

In adopting such non-traditional approaches to life, they seem to be able to create a very satisfying life for themselves. Once the relative stability of this life takes root, they really start to expand out into their world creatively. They make things. Beautiful things.

It is a little humbling to allow myself to remain at this crossroad between fully committing to The Tiny Shop full-time, and continuing to dance around the edges of it as I continue to look for a safe, well-paying “day job.”

Balls, these folks have BIG BRASS BALLS.

One in particular that will remain nameless here, decided one day to take up photography.

“I want to do…this” said he. Then he picked up his camera, went to the mountains, and took pictures. Upon his return, he begins leveraging his social networking skills and posting these images online. Inside of 30 days, he begins to get inquires from outdoor goods manufacturers, ski resorts, and outdoor sports bloggers requesting information about his services. NOT just here in the U.S.A, but also in several countries in Europe as well. He just up and decided to go DO IT, and see what happens….no  biggie….BALLS.

More of this please. More of people saying to hell with status quo. More of people following their bliss…responsibly. More of a departure from the self-imposed enslavement of traditionally valued benchmarks of success. more of the redefining of what it looks like to be successful, happy, and content. Not in a self deluding or lazy way, but in a heart-felt, deep down in your gut, “these are the things that are important to me” way.

Bravo to the makers. Bravo to the craftsman young and old. Bravo to those who ignore what is considered the “right way’ to do things. Bravo to the explorers. You are all having a very empowering impact on me for sure, and I suspect and hope on the world around you as well….just….bravo.

 

 

Winter Workshop Wonderful…Or…Up Off My Lazy Ass.

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Santa has the right idea. A large workshop, warmed by a large hearth, wood floors (NOT laminate or “engineered”wood), plenty of projects and 364 days to crank out finely crafted goods. Paradise.

Now that the cold is descending on Colorado, The Tiny Shop is cranking up the heat and working seamlessly. I have a small commission…well…a favor is more like it. I am building a small trestle chef’s cart for a good friend. After that, I have a small gift for the love of my life in the works, and a little rehab on a cutting board for my folks.

After that, I need to plan out the build of the Roubo, and I REALLY need to get to work making some prototype pieces to flesh out some ideas that have been rattling around in my melon.

This is where it pays to be mindful. If taken all together, and stacked up one on top of the other, the projects can begin to take on the feel of drudgery. They can cause anxiety and can plant the seeds of doubt and dissatisfaction with the art form that I love so deeply.

On the other hand, if I choose to prioritize and approach each project individually, that holds the promise of a winter full of mindful woodworking opportunities.

The trick is to get started.

Once the actual planning and sketching, and revising is taken care of, there needs to be an actual application of effort. One foot in front of the other, one process initiated and enjoyed for its own sake, at a time.

Each time I start a new project, there seems to be a latency period. A time of apprehension that stalls the project before it even gets started.

I had this pointed out to me by the love of my life recently. It seems that she sees in me a struggle to overcome a slight period of fearfulness that inhibits my forward progress.

I at first resisted this assertion. Surely she could see that there were many pieces to the puzzle that needed to be arranged through divine intervention before I would be able to motivate myself off top dead center. Surely she could see that there were tools to buy, wood to dry, and stars to align before I could actually put edged tool steel to wood.

No, not at all.

Basically I was being called out on a small hypocrisy that I allow myself to indulge in. Here in this blog , and in my ongoing book manuscript writing, I preach the gospel of fearlessness in all things, and especially in working wood. Yet, I procrastinate in the beginning of every project due to some niggling little fear or feeling of inadequacy that inhibits me.

Historically, my modus operandi is to allow the project to go un-started until I am locked into a time crunch or deadline issue. Then it is Katy bar the door, and damn the torpedos….full steam ahead!!!!

Not very mindful or fearless I must confess. Nor is it very conducive to a full enjoyment of my Tiny Shop and all that it stands for. The work is still first-rate, and my clients have been satisfied to be sure. However, I am left with the realization that I really must, if I am to see the evolution of Madcap Woodworking continue, begin to focus my attention to the more focused application of the advise that I so freely dole out here on these pages and elsewhere.

The really annoying part of the whole thing is not that my wife sees this in me and feels so free to call me on it, it’s that it is exactly the type of fear that I think should be eliminated completely. It is that same feeling of not being good enough or accomplished enough, or refined enough, that is such a killer of the joy that should abound in The Tiny Shop.

To be sure, these fears are fleeting and short-lived. They evaporate as soon as the saw dust and plane shavings begin their decent to my shop floor.  It is just that initial time of delay and avoidance that is the crux of the matter.

As I explore the reality of mindful woodworking, I realize that I may have jumped too far ahead in the process. I think it important to stop now, and take a moment to examine this issue I seem to have with the initiation of a project. Perhaps once this particular burr has been removed from under my saddle, I will have a new realization of mindfulness to prattle on and on about…..interesting, very interesting.

EDIT TO SAY:

This burr removal is NOT in any way, going to stop or even slow me down in the progress of starting these new (and not so new) projects that I have slated for the near future. I just mention this because I could very easily use this opportunity for introspection and flat-out navel gazing as a means for avoiding the commencement of these projects.

Vigilant, ever vigilant.

 

FINE TEETH…OR HOW I “SAW” THE LIGHT…..

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Above are a trio of hand saws that I will be procuring in the very near future. The can normally be purchased through http://www.Leevalleytools.com, a purveyor of fine woodworking tooling.

Having broken out my vintage Stanley Bailey planes for fettling and fondling, I began a short meditation on hand cut joinery.

Now, I realize that I have mentioned that my hands just do not work the way they once did, and that I find hand cutting lots of dovetails etc. to be hard on my hands. However, I was thinking about it, and it seems to me that since I had been taught, long ago, the means and methods of hand cutting and fitting joinery, it might be a wee bit of a waste if I did not at least try to keep the practice up for as long as I am able.

Therefore, I have elected to leave the door open to hand cut joinery for special projects, or by special request.

Because hand cutting joinery is a bit more involved than using a router and a jig, it requires a few specialized tools in order to do it. Hand cutting mortises and tenons, dovetails and the like normally require a few specialized hand saws and some chisels that are a few steps above the run of the mill Marples Blue chip chisel set.

I know you are saying to yourself…”self…he is just creating a need for more tools to be purchased”. Yep, you are correct…Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.

I did not start out looking for an excuse to go Ebay surfing for saws and chisels, but as a happy byproduct of my decision to maintain my chops vis-a-vis hand cut joinery, I will need to make a few additions to my hand tool ensemble.

The thoughtful folks at Lee Valley Tools have a lovely selection of hand tools. The saws that I am going to be buying…sometime soon I hope…are from a Canadian company named Veritas.

Veritas also makes some very high quality hand planes, chisels, jigs, vises, and many other woodworking accoutrements.

In this particular case, I am departing from my norm and am planning to buy new tools rather than recycling vintage pieces. This is for several reasons.

The first has to do with economy. For the cost of those three saws above, (conveniently put into a package deal by Lee Valley Tools) I “might” be able to get one or two of their counterparts in fair condition on Ebay…MAYBE.

Don’t let the woodworking talking heads convince you that Ebay is the one stop shop for quality, though maybe needing TLC, tooling at bargain basement prices. It seems that anyone who goes to flea markets, yard sales, and second-hand tool stores has a “buy-it-now” on Ebay with a price that will make you wonder what the color of the sky really is on the planet that these people are from. I think they plan to retire on the proceeds of their tool sales there.

So, buying new tools that will require next to no tuning, that come with a warranty, and that are of proven high quality, seem to me to be something of a bargain.

Another reason is that these tools come backed by unbiased reviews by some fairly heavy hitters in the woodworking world. Paul Sellers being the one whose opinion sealed the deal for me. He had a few of Veritas’s saws in his shop for some long-term (three years) testing and gave them glowing reviews. Mr. Sellers is a revered hand tool aficionado. He knows good tooling, and how to rescue it from the landfill and tune it up for another 50-100-150 years of faithful service. He is an inspiration to me. So if he green-lights a particular tool…new or old….I pay attention. Add in my own personal experience with some of Veritas tooling, and it really is a no-brainer for me.

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In any case, I am looking forward to rounding out my arsenal of hand tools with some new saws, a couple of sets of new chisels, some vintage layout tools, and maybe even a small coffeemaker for The Tiny Shop.coffee

Another new addition on the horizon is a place to put all this woodworking finery. I have a great, OLD, Craftsman brand tool chest combo that has been a real God send. I very close friend of mine passed it on to me when I first started putting The Tiny Shop together. I cleaned, waxed and buffed it up, took the useless casters that were on it…barely…off, and plopped it down on a dolly for mobility. Better than new.

Still, even with the tool box from heaven, I would like a set up dedicated to the “finer” tools that I have and that I plan to get.

Initially, I had considered just finding another Craftsman set up like the one I have now. That morphed into building a duplicate out of wood. That then morphed further into something of a hybrid. I would like a base chest of say, four deep drawers. Then perhaps another case that has several more drawers of various depth on top of that. On top of both of those cases, I want to build a plane till and some dedicated spaces for chisels, hand saws, layout tools, and a couple of small drawers for…well….just because they are cool. Something like a cross between this….

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…and these…

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Perhaps you can see where my sudden interest in hand cutting dovetails is coming from now?

The first two pictures of a tool chest above, are pictures I grabbed from Paul Sellers blog site. (www.paulsellers.com)

They are of his personal tool chest. I love this chest, but can see a plane till like the one just above here, sitting on top. Also, instead of a stand, I would set the cases on a very low, cradle of sorts, to make use of the dead space for those deeper drawers I want in the bottom case.

It looks like I just made a lot of fun work for myself again….I feel no shame in saying….I can’t wait to go shopping and then get to making some saw dust in The Tiny Shop.

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.