Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Innovation in wood

In the past few weeks, I've gotten a few calls about making some growth sticks, better known as GIANT rulers. You know, the ones you hang on the wall, to chart your child's growth. 

Although it looks like a simple project, it's really harder than it looks, and shipping poses a huge challenge. Since most shipping charges are calculated both on weight AND size, shipping something six feet long is pretty expensive.

While doing a little research on making one, I came across a very interesting company that makes wooden games, toys, and educational products. It's Maple Landmark, of Vermont. 

This company's owner was named Vermont Small Business Person of the Year, and with innovative products (like the one below!) - it's easy to see why this company is a success. 

It may not look like this is a groundbreaking innovation, but I think his solution to this problem is terrific. (I love the way they can be customized, too.) I frequently struggle to find simple solutions to complex problems, and I'd like to buy this fellow a beer and see what makes him tick. I suspect he has some great ideas to share!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hidden in plain sight...

Every woodworker that I know loves hidden compartments in their pieces - but this one really goes beyond the norm. 

Friday, May 05, 2017

A Woman's Job: The Woodworker and Farmer - Anne Briggs

It's amazing how many women come into my shop wanting to learn to work with wood, explaining that they've been discouraged along the way. Maybe by a parent, or a significant other - or even a teacher.... the thought of someone telling another that they "can't do it" boggles my mind. 

Noor Tagouri films a variety of videos focusing on women in non-traditional trades - chefs, mechanics, blacksmiths, chemists - it's a fascinating glimpse at women in the workplace. 

My friend Anne Briggs takes on two non-traditional trades - woodworking and farming!  Noor made a lovely video about Anne - click on the link below and scroll down a bit. (I can't insert the video here, so you'll have to look around for it.)

A Woman's Job: The Woodworker

Monday, April 24, 2017

Working on an old relic...

Back in the day, this Atlas Deluxe Sewing Machine would have looked like this, sitting on a base, with a top case nearby. 

By the time one of these machines found its way into my shop, it looked more like this...  broken and dirty. 

But despite the dirt and wear, this machine has some amazing details - the attention to embellishments and craftsmanship really jump out at you, which is probably why this machine has a near cult-like following among people who sew. 

Check out these small details and embellishments. 

Unfortunately, the base of this was demolished, and without it - the machine unusable. Now here's the weird part - a little research taught me that this machine was probably close to 60 years old. Here's a very interesting read about this machine. 

But here's the (even) weirder part - I recently purchased some lumber from someone who'd found it stored in a building he'd bought, and the wood was 60 years old. (He's found a bill of sale attached to one of the boards. (Oh, how I wish he'd have taken a picture of that receipt for me!) 

So - I couldn't think of a more appropriate piece of wood to use when building this relic an new base... a 60 year old piece of Oak. 

Building the base was a little tricky, as the power and pedal cords needed to be routed into proper channels so the base would sit flat. There were some very cool hinges that the Atlas machine had mounted on the back edge... of course I forgot to take a picture of those.  :( 

Meanwhile, it feels like I've been working on a lot of older pieces lately, like this steamer truck that turned into a military memorabilia chest.

Or this dog house, that needed steps...

Or this table.

 One thing is for sure - it is never boring in the shop! Next up?... two carving classes starting in the next few days.  Will you be joining us for a chip carving

 or a spoon carving class?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What's the buzz, tell me what's a-happening?

Do you remember that VERY old song from Jesus Christ, Superstar - the one that had the running rift  "What's the buzz, tell me what's a happening?" 

I dug up this old video... once it gets in your head, it's hard to get it out!


I'll tell you what's a-happening...the Live Edge class might be one of the best classes we've ever held at my shop!

There's such a big trend these days to work with live edge slabs -  that's what led to this class being offered. Andrew and Nik from Reclaimed Secrets have been working with slabs and selling them for years.

Andrew was the obvious choice for teaching the course. 

We acquired some amazing slabs for everyone to purchase - everything from Claro walnut to Beetlekill Pine. 

Andrew started everyone off by prepping their slabs - sanding and getting them mostly flat before we could start filling the voids with epoxy. This is painstaking work - mixing epoxy with sawdust and forcing it into the cracks. 

Doni doesn't look too happy about it, and she had one of the smallest pieces to work with!

I'm not sure Joe knew what he was getting into when he chose two slabs - but damn, when he gets these pieces finished, he will have some very special pieces for his cabin up north.

This is such messy work, we moved a few people outside, and they sanded well into the evening.

This group effort to (somewhat) flatten Mike's slabs was exhausting! He's making a huge English walnut dining table, and since he's a metal master, he'll be welding up a base for his slab, once it's finished. 

Andrew offered to plane and sand some of the slabs at his shop, and Summer and Lisa took him up on that! 

These two have been working at the shop about a year, 

and are consistently producing some amazing pieces! 

(She cleans up really well for her court cases, trust me!)

Esther chose a gorgeous slab from Andrew's inventory and has been prepping it for days! The small section she cut off of it will make a (future) smaller end table. 

Lupe is never one to back away from a challenge, 

and she's working on one of the largest slabs in the class. 

Here she's filling some cracks with a brass powder/epoxy mixture. When sanded smooth, it looks like metal has been cast into the slab. It's gorgeous!

John's working on several pieces, and choosing his layout carefully. 

He jumps back and forth between wood turning and making furniture - I think he knocks both of them out of the park! I can't wait to see how his pieces come out, he continually surprises me with his vision in wood. 

Ann's two slabs will eventually become a large dining table for her nephew.  (Duke's off in the corner behind her, experimenting with epoxy mixing.) 

One thing's for sure - no one shied away from hard work in this class - these slabs require a ton of work to get them flat and true. And everyone has really risen to the challenge.  

I will post some pictures when everyone finishes their pieces - but know this - in the eight years of offering great classes at the shop, this might be one of the best ones EVER.  

I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to offer this class again, but if you're interested in working with live edge slabs, THIS is the class you need to take.