New Bowls Taking An Old Shape

I was asked to help drop a tree and belay it to the ground without hitting homes or cars.  Success!  In return I got to keep some of the pear wood.  I like working with Callery or Bradford pear lumber.  It has great color and reminds me of working with other fruit woods.  Cherry comes to mind.  I have been trying my hand at some Swedish, “upside-down” bowl carving.  Hand carved bowls have a varied history, but I first discover Peter Folansebee carving in this vernacular. Jögge Sundqvist  and his father Wille introduced Peter to this method and through my own interpretation of their instructions I have enjoyed their methods.  I really enjoy using the round of the log to define the shape of the top of the bowls.  I started by splitting my log and began roughing out two bowls.

I lay out some lines with dividers.  Some just eyeball the line, but  it’s still a good idea to cut to your lines even in this rough stage.  You have to be careful not to let your tools redesign your work!

I go ahead and chop out as much as I can with the carving hatchet, and then move to the adze.  I have since reground this adze and cut the handle shorter to better meet the needs of working a bowl.

I used two or three different sized gouges to clean up the adze work. I then finish up with the bowl gouge which gives me the option for a smooth transition.  More bowl like and less chopped mess.

Once the inside has been defined then I go about chopping the outside.  I used a hatchet, a draw knife, and spoke shave on the outside of the bowl.

After roughing out these bowls I oiled them and set them aside for a few weeks.  After they dry a little you can make the finishing touches.  Different woods in different thicknesses in different humidity and temperature dry at different times.  When roughing out the bowls the goal is to get them as close to an even thickness so they can dry evenly.  You want them to dry slowly as well.  My bowls are food grade so I only ever use olive oil.  this batch of wood produced two finished bowls so far.  I like the birds that David Fisher carves but I have to do my own interpretation.

Once they are good and dry you can do the final cuts and chip carving
  If you enjoy this kind of carving please connect to these links to two Artists blogs who have studied these matters more closely:  David Fisher  and  Peter Follansbee

Refinishing An Old Friend

I took the time to refinish a project that took me many years to create.  It’s been well over a decade since I’ve completed the table and put it into use in my home.  I use it mostly as a table, but it’s one of the few things that I have built that I kept for myself.  It’s great to see what happens to wood as it ages together with the joinery you force onto the wood.  It was my first encounter with the a sled jig attachment for chain saws used to slab lumber.  I would like to thank Dan Riggs for introducing me to this method.  I went to Mr. Riggs Property in Atlanta, Georgia to Slab some hickory that had been laying on the ground for about 9-12 months if I remember correctly.  It was the late 1990’s when we cut the slabs and I got to keep a few pieces for helping.  The table was put off for about another 3 years or so as you must let lumber dry.  I stored the hickory in my parents garage and I think my dad used it once to load a motorcycle onto a trailer or truck.  The Hickory slab was about 2-1/2in. thick and much longer at the time and it was not phased by the weight of the motorcycle.

The Mahogany came from my former employer Turner Productions/Turner Studios at the time of my early employment there came a decree from Jane Fonda and Ted Turner to stop using rain forest wood in our productions.  We had a healthy stock of Mahogany already in storage from previous projects.  From time to time some of the employees would buy some of the forbidden lumber for this that or the other and for the most part was collecting dust when I came around.  I purchased some of the 8/4 mahogany and thought it was a nice contrast the hickory.  It was my first attempt to tip my proverbial hat to George Nakashima’s work.  There are no metal fasteners used in the construction.  Only joinery.  The legs are a mortise and tenon through joints with lower rounded corner supports dovetailed into the leg tenons and  contrasting butterfly keys to hold the lower leg sections together.

I used butterfly keys to hold the branch to the truck too.  It was further accented by the fact that while sitting on the ground in Georgia for nearly a year the bugs bore little holes into the hickory I filled with clear epoxy.  One of the striking contrasts for me is that this hickory is so unapologetic inconsistent with ideal piece of lumber for woodworking.  Yet it is so familiar to me because often what I chose to be the show piece lumber would be overlooked for the qualities I am celebrating here in the worm holes, knots, branches and bark.  To counter the natural edges of the hickory and other flaws I mentioned I picked some of the mostly flawless mahogany I could find.  It is a really great color and wonderful to work.  It is finished in Tongue Oil as was the reason to drag it out of my house.  As the Hickory splits and time takes its toll on me and the table I hope the table lands in caring hands.  It is my wish that all of the furniture I build outlasts me and finds a quality and appreciative home.  And may neither of us parish in a fire!

Panel Joining Jig

I am joining some tongue and groove panels together for some cabinet doors.  I have made some white oak braces that hold the panel flat and compress the joint while the glue dries giving a tight joint and flat panel.

IMG_0725I made my jig big enough to accommodate a 27 in. panel, but this can vary in size depending on your needs.  The length of the dowels can vary too depending on how many panels you glue up in tandem or the thickness of your panels.  The rails are 1-1/2in. x 1-1/2in. with 5/8 in. dowels to define the closest width.  I then drive wedges between the panel and the pegs as I tap down the holdfasts.  You can incorporate wax paper or parchment paper in between the  panel and the jig if you think the glue will squeeze out and stick to unwanted surfaces.

I put in an even number of wedges to give equal compression.  I drilled the holes in the jig on the drill press and then sawed them in half.  I would not want to gamble with the holes not lining up.  The wedges have to be narrower than the panels so the holdfast can completely flatten the panels.