Friday, February 26, 2021

Resolute Desk in the White House

About a month ago, when our new president was sworn into office, I kept hearing about the Resolute Desk in the White House.  It was repeated so often that I made a note to myself - find out what’s so special about that damn desk!

And whoa - talk about jumping down a rabbit hole!

Turns out this desk holds both historical and woodworking interest for me - check this out! 

Here's what I gleaned from a variety of websites:

On November 2, 1880, a large crate arrived at the White House. No one knew what was in it; they weren’t expecting any deliveries that day. 
This was in the days before the Secret Service... I'm guessing you can't just ship something there today, without making prior arrangements.
 President Rutherford Hayes stood by as workmen opened the mysterious package. Inside was an intricately carved desk, made from dark oak with repeating panels all around.  President Hayes didn't know who had sent it until he noticed the brass plaque accompanying it that read: “Presented by the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland to the President of the United States.”

The Arctic during the 1800s was still undiscovered territory. In 1852, the ship the Resolute was sent to the Arctic Ocean to search for missing explorer Sir John Franklin. 

The ship was built strong with three thicknesses of oak on her bow, but this did not stop her from becoming ice bound. After two winters stuck in the ice the Resolute was abandoned. For over a year she drifted as a ghost ship. Then American whalers spotted her and discovered she was the HMS Resolute (Her Majesty’s Ship) and brought her home to Connecticut.

Queen Victoria ordered that a desk be made from her best timbers. This was the gift that she sent to the White House. The desk, made from the ship that sealed a lasting friendship between Great Britain and the United States, has been in the White House ever since.

Originally, the desk was built with an opening in the center area, 

but when Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted to hide his leg braces, he had the privacy panel added. Later, the desk was moved into storage.
Fast forward into the 1960s....First Lady Jackie Kennedy, found the desk downstairs in the broadcast room when she was restoring the White House. John Kennedy, who loved the sea, loved the desk and was the first president to use it in the Oval Office.

Young John Kennedy Jr. and other Kennedy kids liked to play under the desk pretending the panel was a secret door.

Lyndon Johnson was too big for the Resolute desk, so he had it moved into storage once again. Nixon and Ford did not use it, but Jimmy Carter brought it back to the Oval Office. That makes sense - Jimmy is a woodworker!
Reagan had it raised a couple of inches as he was over six feet tall.
The desk is still in the Oval Office today. 

Imagine the stories it could tell...

Friday, February 12, 2021

Fun with routers - cutting with template bushings

Every now and then, someone will contact me about building something for them, and the challenge is too much to refuse.  In this case, I was asked to build a rifle rack, made to hang on a wall and hold around 15 rifles. Like this, 

but with an angled side, like this.

The usual transpired, but in this era of Covid, the design process became a back-and-forth email blitz, rather than a shop visit. How big, what wood, what finish… after a week or so of emails, we finally wrapped up the details and locked in the order. 

But I spent a night or two pondering the only part of this piece that gave me trouble - the upper stretcher that is scooped, to hold all the rifle barrels. Simple enough during normal times - I might have asked my buddy to CNC something for this piece. But Covid changes everything, and I needed a different solution. 

I’ve been doing a lot of laser work lately, cutting a variety of shapes and gizmos for customers, and one evening when I was trying to figure out how to cut all those scoops for the barrels, the light finally went off in my brain…. cut a template on the laser, and use it for pattern routing. 

 I’m not sure why that didn’t come to me sooner!

I use a pretty simple drafting program called MacDraft. I’ve been using it for so many years, I can design a piece in my sleep. So it was pretty easy to draw those “scoops” and space them evenly. After cutting the template, I did a few tests before routing the actual wood. 

I clamped the template to a piece of scrap 

and cut a sample. 

The scoop that I cut was a little too wide, 

so I switched the router template guide, which will change the size of the offset. You can buy a set that looks like this, 

so I had a few different sizes to test. 

I finally found the right combination, and it cut a perfect 1 1/4” scoop for the rifle barrel. 

The template I cut with the Glowforge had five scoops in it, so I had to cut a section, them move it over and cut five more, 

and finally - all 15 slots were cut. Perfect, and perfectly spaced. 

I’m not sure why I was sweating cutting these - this turned out to be one of the easier parts of this wall rack to make! 

I'll trim this piece down a bit - I made it much bigger than I needed, so that it could be cut down when I actually start making this rack. But for now, the hardest part of this build is done.  


Tuesday, February 02, 2021

The world's largest pencil sharpener

This week reminded me of something I haven't thought about in years - hames!

Yeah, that's not a misspelling.

Back in the day, woodworking catalogs sold hames for attaching to the top of a walking stick - a way to personalize your stick. They were available in a variety of designs - anything from eagles 

to dragons,

 dogs, you name it!

Years ago, I taught a class where we made walking sticks, and basically, we attached a hame to a stick, did a bit of carving, and wound up with something like this.   Compasses were really popular! 

These toppers have really gotten fancy - like this one that converts to a telescope,

 or this one that has a really nice compass. 

To be honest, it was a simple project - just whittle the end of the stick down to a 3/4" dowel, and attach the topper.  But - getting that stick to a perfectly round 3/4" end was a challenge. 

Enter the world's largest pencil sharpener!  

Well, not this big. 

Or this big!

 But this... a 3/4" tenenor from Lee Valley.

 I'd forgotten that I had one, until someone came to the shop and asked if I could tenon some sticks for them, as they were making a small stool that needed some 3/4" tenons on each end. 
I haven't pulled out this tenon cutter in years, so I wanted to test it first. I've found it's best to clamp everything firmly in place,

 to avoid any mishaps.  This cutter worked perfectly! 
Like I said - the world's largest pencil sharpener!  

I wound up with a perfectly tenoned end. 

Since I had an old rubber mallet head in the shop (in need of a handle), I'll spend some an afternoon shaping the handle to fit my hand. 

Here's the sad truth - most woodworkers are tool junkies. 

We buy various tools because they have potential for future projects. 

I'm talking about everything from dovetail jigs to wood threaders to tenoners, inlay kits to chopstick making jigs. The list is endless. 

We squirrel away these tools until the right moment presents itself, and then we pull them out, and hopefully remember how to use it! 

Luckily for me, and the woman who wanted those tenons cut this week, it was easy to remember how to use this tool!