Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sure I can fix that...

Did you wonder where I've been? It's been nearly a week since I posted, and damn! - the shop has been humming with activity. I've been teaching some private session in Intermediate Woodworking, and yesterday, we concentrated on box joints. They're not too difficult, once you get the jig set up correctly. The key is - lots of testing.

Once we made some small boxes,

we fooled around with a new different type of inlay,

using one of those small inlay kits you've probably seen in various woodworking catalogs. This was just a simple "heart" template we made, but imagine what you could come up with if you really spent some time designing something.

In the middle of the class, a woman walked in with a broken sculpture and a plea - please fix this! She explained that she'd been housesitting for a friend, and knocked the sculpture (of a bird) off a countertop. The beak fell off, and a small dowel supporting the bird snapped. Ouch.

The dowel wasn't a difficult repair, I just cut a new one and drilled out the old bits. I made sure I used a very dense wood, so that it wouldn't snap again.

But the beak repair was troublesome. There wasn't any way to clamp the two pieces together - which is why it probably broke in the first place! I had to figure out a way to insert something into those two pieces, to strengthen that joint.

That's when a light went off in my head! Using the Festool Domino would be perfect - only this sculpture didn't have any flat areas which with to reference the plate of the Domino. I'd have to wing it.

Cutting the slot into the beak went fine - I just had to ensure that I held the tool as flat as I could to that rounded beak surface. Here's the first slot, cut more or less into the center of the beak.

The body of the bird was shaped like a small football - this was going to be the tough part! Figuring out a way to place the Domino on the rounded area was the real dilemma, and the first time I cut the slot - I was off center.

There were a few choice words thrown around the room, but then I quit crying about it and plugged the slot. And tried again.

There was no way I could make a mistake on the second attempt - I needed a better way to gauge the height of the cut, as well as a square surface with which to rest the Domino platform. After all, if the mortise wasn't square to the surface, the beak would be crooked.

What's that line about the mother of invention?

I taped a "fence" on the bird, to give myself a square reference point. It took a lot of trial and error - the fence had to be just perfect, or everything would be off. I probably sat and stared at the piece for 15 minutes, deciding if it would work or not.

This is the stressful side of wood repair - you have to wing it, with the hope that what you're doing will work out. I call it "seat of the pants" woodworking, and it can be a little frightening. I mean... you don't want to ruin someone's piece, so you better damn well know what you're doing.

Two words -


Yup - it worked! I glued it together (no clamps needed!) and started to clean the shop from a long day of cutting and sanding and routing and stressing.

Days like today wipe me out, but there is always that exhilaration of accomplishment. Even sweeping the floor at the end of the night, feeling exhausted, feels great!

Hope everyone else out there is having productive shop days, too. Be safe!

1 comment:

Julie @ followyourheartwoodworking said...

Darn, and here I thought that "I" was the Woodworking Goddess. I guess I'll be the Canadian one although I haven't fixed any broken birds!
(Bows to Jamie)