Monday, June 14, 2010

Multi slot mortising machine using a router

Most of my weekend was spent teaching an intensive three day session of Basic Woodworking to a lovely woman from Wyoming. Her crash course in the woodshop armed her with enough tool experience, as well as hands-on building skills, for her to return home and start working on her own.

One thing that really strikes me about teaching is how many people fall in love with the router. Hey - what's not to love? It performs a variety of tasks in the shop - from cutting decorative edges, to machining joints, to carving - you name it, it can probably be done with a router.

Another student of mine (thanks, Doug!) sent me a link to this video below. It's awesome, and will give you a new appreciation for what a router can also do. I'm seriously thinking about building this device.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ceramic studio change-over

There's an interesting difference between being a potter and being a woodworker that most people don't consider. Woodworkers switch materials all the time, from job to job. Right now, I'm working on a cherry piece, but the next one I'll start is in oak. There isn't a significant difference; the adhesives and finishes are much the same, and it's not as if I have to change my sawblade if I've switched wood. Just a little cleaning with the air compressor and the changeover is complete.

But clay poses a different problem. For the last six years, I've used a deep brown clay body called Black Mountain. I love the way it fires to a chocolate brown color. But just as all things must change, I've started mixing some new glazes, and the bottom line is - the glazes I like simply look better on a lighter clay. I'm switching to a buff stoneware called Long Beach, which I've thoroughly tested and find works perfectly for my glaze palette.

Now many potters switch back and forth, but to me - it's a hassle. That means I have to clean everything from my canvas mats to my throwing tools, to my wheel. And since there is such a drastic color difference in the two clays I use, the slightest cross contamination really pops out.

So it's with some sadness that I used the very last of my Black Mountain clay this week. I've probably gone through several thousand pounds of it; not much by most potter's standards, but for me, that's a fair amount. I threw three pieces - two small pitchers and a tumbler, on the wheel, as my final farewell.

And now the changeover begins! Time to pack away all the old glaze tests, using that clay body.

A clean wheel!

And clean tools!

The plaster molds needed a little scrubbing and organization.

And the glaze area needed some straightening out. There were all sorts of slips and unlabeled mixtures, all of which went into the trash.

As long as I've giving you a tour of my clay studio, here's something that most people ask about when visiting. Call me silly, but I save my cone packs. I just think they look cool.

And finally, my current sketch wall. Whenever I'm working on a project, I sketch it in full-size, or print it with my computer. At times, the wall can be crowded with dozens of drawings, but right now - the the new clay being introduced - most of the older drawings have been retired, and new ones are being added daily.

Hope you enjoyed the little tour!