Monday, August 28, 2023

Don't buy what you don't need

 When you're new to woodworking, it's so tempting to buy all the gadgets you see in the stores. 

Trust me, I fell into the trap. 

I've owned everything from wood threaders (basically, tap and die sets for wood) to saw blade height gauges, to fancy-schmancy push sticks. 

After a while - you realize that most of those things are gimmicks - and that you can either make your own (much better!) or that you just don't need them. 

In my last post, I completed a solid walnut stool, made with 24 staves. I ended up cutting a rabbet in the bottom, so a plywood disc could recess into the bottom. I will end up covering it in leather, so it can't scratch the floor. Sweet.

On to the top....

I laminated a solid blank of walnut - again, all this material was given to me and it's gorgeous. I decided to make the top out of solid wood, instead of upholstering one.  

Hmmm... how to cut it into a perfect circle?....

Also - I wanted it to sit on top of the stool, so I needed to rout a lip along the bottom edge of the top, so it would fit in the recess.  

Which takes me back to my opening comments - buying gadgets. 

There are tons of circle cutting jigs for routers. Like this, 

and this, 

and this, 

and this. 

If you listen to one piece of advice - don't fall prey to buying stuff you don't need!

In almost every instance - you can make your own, for much less $$, and often - what you make will be better.

And here's the best part - making your own jigs is good practice for building furniture. 

So here's my circle jig - made in about 5 minutes out of scrap plywood. This one is  about 14" long. Pretty handy!

I actually made three - the largest one is about four feet long, so I can cut out round table tops. 

And I also made this small one, because I needed to put a six-inch lazy susan in the bottom of a sculpture base I'm making. 

All in all - these three took about 20 minutes to make, and I saved a ton. 

Here's the wooden top - I forgot to take pictures in the beginning, but I routed the rabbet first, testing the fit in the stool base. I made it a little loose, as I didn't want it to get stuck, should the wood shrink a bit. 

Then I cut the outside shape, dropping the bit for each of the revolutions, until it was cut completely through. Notice that I put some scrap plywood under it, so I didn't damage the bit or my tabletop. 

Finally - I wanted a special profile on the edge of this top. It's called a thumbnail profile, which is a nice, gradual curve.

Of course, I didn't have the right router bit in my shop!

 It's different from a simple round-over bit. 

 Well you know me... I wasn't about to buy an $87 bit, so I ended up putting a 40 grit disc on my sander and sanded the top, rotating it so that my curve was uniform all the way around the top. 


Finally - I thought it would be nice to put some leather on the bottom, to protect the tiled floor. I bought a square foot of a gorgeous brown leather, and cut the perfect circle in my Glowforge. Notice I did a few small test circles, to ensure that I had the proper settings for the laser.

 Once I figured that out, I cut the perfect circle - it took less than two minutes.

 I used some spray-on adhesive to fix it in place. 

All in all, this piece was so enjoyable to build. 

So I'll let you in on a secret - my neighbors have peacocks, and lately, they've been coming over to visit. The peacocks, not the neighbors.

They love to hang out on my patio, often peering in the window at me. Their eyesight is amazing. 

This stool will hold their bag of bird seed. 

OK, it's a little extravagant, but there's no way I can leave the bag outside. They're nosey AF 

and a little pesky when they know food is involved!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

A simple way to assemble a circular form

 A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from someone, asking if I could make some stools with storage in them. I was a little hesitant to commit to this project, so I told them I'd do a little research on it and get back to them. 

And then I jumped down the rabbit hole known as woodworking.

There are so many great examples out there, and I found a few that I really liked. These would be good starting points for this project. And luckily, I was given some design freedom to come up with whatever I wanted.

Finally - I decided to build one for myself, to see if making 8 of them was something I wanted to undertake. I really liked this simple design, except for the slotted handle.

My buddy Andrew had given me a huge stack of walnut, so the material choice was an easy one to make. I prepped some pieces, and started my research.

Since this will be used this as a seat, the height needed to be around 18”.

 I haven’t decided if I’ll upholster the seat, or make a wooden top for it. Either way -  the total height for this glue-up needed to be around 17” tall.

I started off by using an online calculator to figure out the angles that I would need to cut, based on the design. 

Then I tilted the blade to start cutting some angles. 

This online calculator made it pretty easy to figure everything out. 

These pieces will end up needing a compound cut - the wood will be both angled, and tapered. A little tricky, but - hey, my saw and I can handle it. 

If I've learned anything, I know that jigs are the way to go. So I made a jig to cut the tapers, called staves, and cut 24 of them in total.

It was easiest to glue them together three staves at a time, instead of trying to glue the whole thing up at once. (Trust me, I learned this the hard way many years ago.). Masking tape makes life a little easier. 

And since there were 24 staves, I glued three together,

 and then three more, 

and so on… 

until I had eight parts. 

 And then four parts. You get the idea.  

Finally, I wound up with 2 halves. 

Gluing up angles is tricky, your clamps can slip, which makes life hell. 

So gluing everything into some sections made life a lot easier. 

I actually got pretty good at it, and the final glue up was super easy. 

I did have to add a few tapered shims, so that the strap clamps wouldn’t slip off.

Once it was glued, I needed to trim the top and bottom. 

I learned a trick along time ago for fixing chairs that don't sit flat on a floor. If you extend your blade about a 16th of an inch or so above the table saw top, you can do very light skimming cuts to slightly trim the leg. So I scribed a line that I needed to cut and trimmed it carefully on the tablesaw. Of course, I kept checking to make sure it was flat, with no wobbles. 

Once I had the bottom trimmed and sanded, 

I drew a parallel line at the top, so I could trim the top edge. Again, I did this on the tablesaw it was pretty simple to accomplish. A little sanding and breaking the edges and this stool was starting to look fabulous.

This was a super tricky build, and I didn't consider how I would put a bottom in the stool. A rabbet on the bottom edge? A disc dropped in from the top, and fastened in place?

 I'll think about that tomorrow! 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Another interesting project completed - whew!

It's not too often that I build something and think about it lasting more than a hundred years.  

Oh, don't get me wrong - there are times when I build a dining table or a bed or a cabinet, and I wonder what people will think of it when it's handed down over time. But this time - I'm talking about building something more like a time capsule.

The urn that I just completed will soon be on its way to Italy, where it will end up in a walled vault with a lease. There are a ton of rules and regs for transporting ashes - you can read about those here.

The cemetery in Turin allows cremains to be housed for 99 years, after which, the urn ... well, who know what happens to it.

Here's the inspiration for the build. 

Early Dynastic Coffin by Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum on Sketchfab

Tradition has this urn being build of Cedar of Lebanon, and my client tracked down a slab of it in Northern California.

 I spoke to the lumber dealer, and explained how I'd like it re-sawn, and within a week or two, I had these 4 slabs resting in my shop. 

We went through a ton of design considerations - everything from building with wet wood (which is sure to shrink) to utilizing joinery that doesn't rely on glue. It took months, and frankly, a lot of emotional decisions. 

Here's the crate, in which the urn will be transported.

 The contents of the crate need to be accessible for inspections, hence the buckles that secure the lid.

 Once the lid is removed, the urn is revealed. 

 Since this wood is fairly fresh, the aroma of the cedar rushes right out at you - it's pretty amazing.

  You can see that curve on the lid from this view - thanks to my buddy Rick for machining that curve on his CNC. 

When it was finally complete, the buyer and I sealed the cremains in the urn, using brass screws and plugs to cover the screws. 

What will the cemetery people find in 99 years, when this box is removed from its vault?

This crate and urn will soon be on its way to Italy. All in all, this was a pretty emotional project, but one I was very honored to build. 

Godspeed, Pia.