Monday, February 21, 2011

Amazing pet videos

There is nothing like an old fashioned cold to stop me in my tracks. I've been sick for about a week, and it's wiping me out, energy wise. Yes, I've been taking everyone's advice - rest, liquids, chicken soup - nothing is helping.

Until I get back into the woodshop, there isn't much to blog about. But I saw these videos and thought they were pretty great. .... enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One-of-a-kind walking stick

This is one of those times when blogging gets in the way of woodworking! When that happens, you (meaning - me!) have to make a decision about your priority.

So here is my confession - it's all about the wood. That has to be my priority.

Remember in my last post, I was hired to turn this fighter jet control stick into a walking stick for a pilot who was retiring. A few different people who inspected this piece speculated that it was either from an F-4 jet or an F-15.

Whatever. Let's make the stick.

The pilot who is receiving this retirement gift is tall, maybe 6'3" or more, so I grabbed a few of my height-endowed buddies and had them hold the handle in a comfortable position, as if they were hiking. That gave me the rough length of this stick. It also told me that my drill press didn't have enough capacity for me to cut a tenon on the end of the piece of wood. I was just short a couple of inches, so I lifted the drill press up on the step next to it, and swiveled the head around. I also had to tilt the table 90˚ so that I could clamp the piece of wood to it.

There is more than one way to skin that proverbial cat.

Then - things got dicey. I had a class starting in an hour so, and I wanted to finish up on most of the work on this. So I forgot to take pictures along the way. Sorry.

Here is the tenon formed on the end of the wood.

Next stop? Tapering.

I'll try to describe it - but it might make more sense if you scroll down to the bottom to see the finished picture of this piece. Notice how the wood tapers from about two inches at the top, to about 3/4s of an inch at the bottom? Cutting a taper like that using a taper jig with the tablesaw would have been nearly impossible.

The next best tool for tapering is the jointer, which is where I headed. Once you've tapered on the jointer, it's uber-easy. But here's a video that more or less shows how I cut them. I cut my tapers a little differently than this fellow cuts his - more conservatively, by taking many small passes over the blade, rather than the two big bites that he took. Also, He cuts his taper at the end of this piece of wood, and I start mine the nose of the piece of wood. Again - ask ten woodworkers how to do something and you'll get eleven answers. Whatever - as long as you accomplish the same end result, it really doesn't matter if everyone is safe while they're doing what they're doing.

Once the wood was tapered, I rounded over all the edges with various round-over bits on my router, so that the stick was perfectly circular. I started with a 3/4" bit, and then as the piece of wood tapered to a smaller dimension, I switched to a 1/2" bit, and then at the end, to a 3/8" bit. Again, being rushed for time didn't allow me to photograph any of this. But - it's a very easy way to make a long stick of wood appear as if it was turned on the lathe.

Yup, a easier way would have been to simply buy a wooden dowel and use that, but it wouldn't have had the same, graceful tapered appearance.

I considered putting a small metal cap at the end of the stick, to protect it from splitting in case it was actually used as a walking stick.

Since the metal on the flight stick was silver toned, I wanted to use a material that would look similar. A stainless steel cap was a perfect solution.

But - after putting a sample cap on the end, I decided I didn't really like the look of it. So I left it off. That's called artistic license, and I use mine liberally.

Next step was to apply some finish to the stick and mount the handle. I applied a couple of different finishes - first a coat of Watco Danish Oil, to bring out the color of the walnut. Then - after it dried for a few days, I applied a few coats of a handrubbed varnish, for extra protection. Using the combination of these two finishes gives you the best of both worlds - the great color that comes from using oil, and the protection that varnish provides. Sweet.

Finally, a coat of paste wax was applied. I masked off the tenon while I was applying the wax, as I didn't want to get it on the area where I would be applying epoxy.

Some five minute epoxy and a screw through one of those holes, and that handle will never come off!

Just as I was taking these last two photos, my client came in to pick up the piece.

Congrats to the pilot who received this walking stick, thanks for your many years of service. I love making unique pieces like this - enjoy your retirement!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Plant a tree this spring

Last night, one of the largest group of students I've worked with gathered in my studio to begin their woodworking journey. That might sound hokey, but that is the truth, and their enthusiasm was contagious. We went through a amazing amount of information, and later, they finally got some one-on-one time with wood and glue.

Does it get any better?

When I got home at the end of the night, I was running over the class in my head, thinking about how much material we used and that I'd need to prep more wood for the new class starting in just two days.

Wood, wood, wood... our lumber industry seems so antiseptic and tidy - you go to the lumberyard and pick out a board. If you're lucky, it's straightlined, relatively flat, and ready to use. But wood has changed so much over the years, do people even realize that?

Not to get all "old timer" on you, but when I was in high school, the lumber was had available was amazing - mahogany boards that were often 15" wide, with stunning color and grain figure.

Now? Narrower boards with dull color.

Think about it - how long does it take to grow a tree large enough to produce boards to use for furniture making? Are the lumber companies replacing what they cut, or is sustainability just not possible? When you read in the news about logging and deforestation, are you outraged, or do you just want that nice new bedroom set, regardless of the impact on the environment?

I've been trying to lessen the impact of the woodworking classes I teach on the environment - from the materials we use, to the finishes we apply. Students are encouraged to donate items to the shop - everything from old rags for applying finishes to carpet scraps to protect our work while sanding. Many have been much more generous - donating tools and time and woods that they no longer need. It all helps, and lessens our dependency on purchasing these items.

All of this is on my mind because I recently saw this video. The footage is stunning, showing one of the last uncontacted tribes living in Brazil, unaware of the rest of the world. But that could be about to change, with lumber companies moving in, hoping to get their hands on all that virgin timber. In this day and age of iPods, cell phones and Facebook, how is it even possible that tribes like this still exist? Amazing.

What will become of them? Is it possible that the tribe and their land will be protected, or will some large lumber conglomerate move in and take what they want? Who will step up and protect them?

What can you do? That's a good question, and I don't have an answer for it. But I do know this - we have to start replenishing this planet if we care at all about its survival. Use less plastic products. Buy less junk. Recycle. Plant a tree this spring, when you're putting your garden in the ground. Get together with your neighbors and clean up your block.

And if you're a woodworker, consider the impact of your work on the environment. Can you find a use for your sawdust? Do your wood scraps end up in the trash, or could a neighbor use them? I know that I've started donating scrap to various places around town - everything from kindling for woodstoves to sending boxes of interesting wood cut-offs to other artists for use in their work.

It's a start.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Rubbing the block on...

Oh don't get all pervy, rub blocks are one of the last steps for finishing the table in my shop. The leaves and top are getting their final coats of rubbed on poly,

and next, I'll climb underneath and apply some rub blocks to the new table extension slide. They're not totally necessary, but better quality tables use rub blocks to reinforce the slides.

So... you know I'm all about that.

Make some quarter-round molding, and cut it into 3" lengths.

Then coat the edges in glue, and rub them into place, against the slide.

Make sure you apply them on the side that stays in place, not the one that needs to move!

This has been a week of finishing up some older orders around the shop, and getting prepared for UNLV classes starting here next week. Cleaning, organizing, getting the clamps back into some semblance of order, even though that won't last. A big thanks to my buddy, Danny, who welded a new rack on top of the clamp cart, for my baby clamps.

I even hung a new self portrait in the office.

Things are getting pretty orderly, there are various projects stashed all over the shop, like Coach's set of dressers for his grandson Noah.

A little zen area of the shop - one of the Peace tumblers, and the all important carry-out menus. Nothing like picking up a steaming bowl of pho on the way home.

Finally, on to my next project. I get some of the coolest orders in town, and this is another one of them. Someone brought by a fighter jet flight stick and asked if I could turn it into a walking stick for a retiring pilot.

It's a little grubby, and needs some TLC, but entirely awesome to hold in your hand. The ergonomics of it are amazing.

I'm sure those buttons do things I don't even want to think about.

So for now, I'll just concentrate on making the walking stick and think about the fellow who is retiring, thanking him for his years of service.