With the first pattern exercise completed the participants followed my lead and began the work on the second exercise, that being from Plate 286, Figure 6.
Basically it is a twice-as-complicated off-shoot of the more staid Figure 5, consisting of larger units composed of three isosceles triangles that are 30-120-30 in configuration.
Jim found it especially challenging to work with pernambuco, the orange tropical hardwood that was so dense we wound up making a special jig so it could be cut on the table saw.
The design lends itself well to three separate species being used, and this expression can be subdued or vibrant. Due to time constraints we only glued these down to the paper supports, and each person could then mount them permanently on a substrate panel once they got home.
As we moved on the the final exercise we simply ran out of time so all we got done was me showing the use of my own jig and providing them with the materials and instructions for their own to make at home.
I believe a grand time was enjoyed by all, certainly by me, and I look forward to teaching this workshop (or one very similar, perhaps with slightly different exercises) again next summer at The Barn, and next autumn at Marc Adams School of Woodworking.
Last weekend was the final workshop at The Barn for this year, a 2-1/2 day exploration of 18th Century Parquetry as documented by Roubo. It was great fun with four engaging and gifted woodworkers present to make it a bunch of fun. Gerald from PA was the first to arrive Friday morning, Glenn from TX arrived just before lunch after traveling for more than 24 hours (his flights were sidelined by the weather at DFW) and Lou and Jim arrived from NC just as we started at 1PM. My camera battery was dead so I had very few pictures from that first half-day.
Using the simplest of tools and supplies — a 30-60-90 triangle, and some small pieces of baltic birch plywood — we got our first of three sawing/planing jigs built in order to create the first exercise of the easiest non-rectilinear patterns from Plate 286, Figure 5. Once the jigs were done we planed and re-sawed the southern yellow pine we were using.
Then the work began in earnest as the task was to first cut and plane-trim to uniformity as many equilateral 60-degree parallelogram lozenges as possible (this pic is from a later exercise but the trimming with a block plane i the jig is essentially identical), then begin the oft-times confusing task of assembling the pattern.
Once you get the hang of putting the pieces together it goes quickly, but at the beginning there is much exclamation and flipping of individual pieces.
Quietness punctuated with an occasional expression of aggravation reigned for a couple of hours as the lozenges were glued down to brown paper with hot hide glue.
A couple hours later the sheets were finished and ready for mounting on another piece of baltic birch plywood. They were sandwiched between a Roubo-esque press and a handful of clamps for a couple hours.
After taking them out of the press and lightly dampened the paper backing was easily peeled off, leaving the panels festooned with the new design.
The trimming out and finishing of these panels was left to the attendees to complete once they got back home. Our emphasis was the layout and creating the patterns.
The second exercise began Saturday around mid-day. It was more complex in that it required a much shallower sawing and planing angle, and each pattern required the use of three species of wood.
For this we needed a sawing/planing jig set at 30 degrees rather than 60, in order to cut the triangles rather than the equilateral parallelograms of the first exercise. This image is of my own jig, which includes both the 60-degree and 30-degree setups.
Next post we’ll follow exercises #2 and #3 as they progressed.
One of the most fun aspects of the recent successful workbench-building workshop was that the group was small and the strategy for building allowed everyone to make their own version. I will present each of these as they come on line.
Bill wanted a small bench, perhaps only 52 inches long. Though we started out with 96-inch core slabs, we cut Bill’s into two pieces with the larger one being a petite Roubo to serve as the platform for his exquisite Emmert K-2 patternmaker’s vise. Over the years he had become enamored with my K-1, so when he saw this one at a yard sale he jumped at the chance.
After getting his benches home in their knocked-down configuration he slithered them into his basement workshop and got to work in outfitting the bench with his vise. Using his other bench made from the cut-off of the 8-foot slab core, which we dubbed “Bill’s Hobbit-Sized Roubo” or quite naturally “The Bill-bo” he set about excavating the void for the massive Emmert undercarriage.
He got that done and attached the vise’s base to the bench, and is currently cleaning up the jaw and screw for imminent re-unification.
I see he still has some trimming to do on the ends but as of now the bench is ready to get to work.
Still, I can’t wait to see the end of the tale of the Bill-bo…
In my preparations for the workshop this weekend I decided to switch two heavy workbenches, moving the 8-foot Nicholson from my studio over to the classroom (shown here in its new location in the lower left of the frame), swapping it for the 5-foot Roubo in the latter.
Since the lighter of these was over 200 pounds and I was doing all the work by myself I turned to my trusty sofa sliders from the hardware store. Slipping them under the feet allowed me to push the benches across the barn to their new locations with very little effort.
On the other hand the new location for the Nicholson is a little problematic in that the wood floor is a bit slick there, and with a very little effort working at the bench it would start scooting across the floor. So I needed to quickly make some non-skid slippers.
I started with two sheets of 80-grit emory cloth, and tore them in half.
I sprayed the back sides with adhesive, then folded them together so that each face was the abrasive side.
Then I slid a folded pad under each foot, and the problem of the sliding workbench was cured. Two sheets of sandpaper, spray adhesive, 90 seconds. Done.
I’m spending a couple of days away from my own projects in the studio and preparing the classroom for the upcoming parquetry workshop this coming Friday-Sunday (still one space available for anyone who wants to come to Shangri-La during some magnificent weather – upper 70s by day, upper 50s by night).
It’s going to be a lot of fun, in part because the structure of the event is different than I have pursued before. In most workshops, even those that are techniques-based, the structure is to present a narrowly defined set of exercises with the goal of accomplishing a specific project. The project can be large or small, but getting “finished” is dialed in to the equation.
My objective this time is much different in that we will be engaging in practices to learn techniques such that the participants can integrate them into their own work once they get back home. We may or may not get to “finished” but we will definitely get to the “I have mastered this technique” point.
Parquetry is all about precision sawing and trimming so much time will be spend deriving and constructing sawing and planing jigs.
The basic tool menu is preposterously small; take a block plane, a fine back saw, a 3-60-90 plastic triangle, and a compass or divider, add a little glue and you are ready to hit the ground with classical parquetry.
I got done with my latest article for Popular Woodworking. It’s all about one-handed binding clamps that are not only ridiculously easy to make but useful in a thousand ways in the furniture making or restoration studio.
I cannot recall in which issue it will appear.
For the next few weeks I will be spending portions of my time getting ready for our near arctic winters. That means cutting firewood literally by the ton.
The other day my pal Bob came by to spend an hour or two getting trees down on the ground. Bob has many skill sets in life and one of them emerged from his years as a timberman in his youth. Together we got about a dozen trees down, most of them dead or dying locust trees whose firewood I prize. When I say “we” I mean Bob, with me mostly just standing out the the way. I am not yet confident in my ability to get a large tree down safely every time, and for Bob it is just second nature. Once they are on the ground I have no trouble chopping them up with my slightly smaller chain saw.
To the southwest of the barn I am trying to thin the trees in order to get better winter sun. Given the stand of trees there now I lose the sun by about 3PM in December and January, so If I can move the tree line back a hundred yards it should get better. But that is another five or ten years worth of firewood.
So over the next month I will be closing out the days with at least a couple of hours of chopping, splitting, and stacking firewood until I have garnered about 25 cubic yards to augment our half-winter’s worth of firewood left over from last year.
Oh wait, there wasn’t a Day 5 because everyone got finished building their benches a day early and headed for home. It was exceedingly gratifying that the concept I borrowed from David Barron could be adapted successfully to a group event.
So instead of a fifth day of the workshop I puttered around the barn putting things away and cleaning up. I also reflected on those things that worked, and those that could work better.
First, I’ve decided to not hold any events in July any more. The risk of weather-based unpleasantness is too high. As it was the temperatures were in the mid-80s with high-ish humidity, and it was the only week all summer where we needed the fan on all night in order to sleep well. Had the event actually included all the bodies I was expected it would have been a disaster as we would have done all the assembly on the fourth floor, which is pretty oven-like this time of year.
Which brings us to #2, that being my realization that for me and The Barn the perfect number of attendees for a hands-on workshop is four. So, from now on, four it is. My parquetry workshop in ten days has three students (a fourth slot is still open for anyone still interested) and that will be great.
Which brings me to #3, namely that I need to do a much better job in providing adequate space for all the attendees and all the processes they need to execute. I’ve already started working on this and moving more and more stuff off of the main floor. And quit using the classroom space as little more than my storage closet.
Fourth, in collaboration with the students we derived a good tool list for attendees of any future workbench-building workshop. For this first time event I was more than happy to draw on my own substantial tool set to get the job done.
Fifth I was grateful beyond words for both the days of fellowship but the ideas and skills the attendees brought with them. For example my solar panel array had been on the fritz for six weeks, and despite numerous interactions with the system manufacturer the problem was not resolved. Bill knew of the problem and took it as a personal challenge to solve it. Which he did!
Finally I have a number of ideas about the bench-building process itself, and that there are some specific changes I will test drive before the next one.
At the moment I am tentatively scheduling the next workshop for building laminated Roubo workbenches either the last week of August or the first week of September 2017.
The fourth day brought everything together. Since everyone had their benches on their feet by the end of Day 3 we were in really great shape and I was confident that the scheme I devised for the workshop would result in everyone going home with a completed bench. But this was the day with lots of odds and ends.
The day involved a lot of sawing. For starters I asked everyone to trim the tenons protruding through their bench tops as a good warm-up. Using a selection of saws from my collection everything was done in a flash.
Following that we trimmed all the benches to finished length, then flipped the benches on their sides on top of low saw benches and sawed the legs to each person’s preferred height. Like I said earlier, the small number of participants allowed us fair latitude to customize each bench.
With the tenons trimmed and the legs cut to the desired height the task was then to get the tops flattened. Much like the undersides, a few minutes with a scrub plane was followed by perhaps an hour or so with a fore plane. This put the benches in shape to be used for work right away. The final smoothing of the bench tops will not occur until next spring after they have gone through a year’s seasoning.
As we were ramping up for the planing I tuned each plane they would be using, then gave a brief tutorial on the method I use for sharpening. It may or may not be the correct technique, but it works for me and now they know how I do it. Whether or not they use the same approach is for them to decide.
Once the tops were flat it was time to chop the mortise for the planing stop. I had intended to create these mortises in the same manner as the leg mortises but just forgot to do it at the right time. So, chopping.
Once the mortise was half chopped from the top we flipped the benches over and finished them from the underside. A little time with the rasp and the planing stops were a snug and functional fit.
Once the guys were done with their planing stops they used an ultra-high-tech precision jig I made to drill their holdfast holes.
While all of this was going on I cut the stretchers and slats for the shelf under the bench. For the most part these were simply packed up as four of the five benches were being disassembled for the trip home.
During our traditional Thursday night ribfest everyone confirmed that they were done with constructing their benches and wanted to pack up and head home the following morning. So we trudged up the hill for the glamour shot, then disassembled the benches and loaded them. Since the legs were a precise snug fit driving them out of the mortises was no trouble with a block of wood and the two-pound sledge.
And with that, the First Fellowship of the Workbench was disbanded and scattered to the winds.
As the third day commenced we were greeted by the sight of all the bench top slabs ready to move forward. Removing all the clamps and seeing them we had to put the desire to move forward with them, and set them aside for a while.
Day 3 was all about the legs. Prepping the stock, gluing them up, and fitting them into the joinery already in the slabs.
We began much as we did Monday morning, ripping the 8-foot 2x12s but into two pieces rather than three, followed by chopping them to 36″. They would be trimmed to each maker’s preferred length on Day 4.
Then out to the planer to get them all cleaned up. We checked the thickness periodically to get it a perfect match to the laminae of the slabs as the design of the joinery depended on the laminations of the leg tenons fitting the mortises perfectly.
With the cleaned laminae ready, the assembly began. The center lamina was off-set by 4″ inches given the configuration of the joinery and the thickness of the top slabs. Since the legs were being cut to length the following day it made no point to cut them twice, so we just left the center piece longer. Besides. if the fit was really tight we had a sacrificial surface to address with a sledge hammer.
The legs were assembled with deck screws and fender washers serving as the clamping system. It is a method I use increasingly for components that will not be finished furniture. This allowed us to get them all glued up without external clamps, and we set them aside until after lunch.
In the mean time we turned our attention to getting the slabs ready to receive the legs later in the day. That meant that the underside of the slabs needed to be flattened enough to provide a solid base against which the legs could be seated. A few minutes with a scrub plane and a few more with a fore plane was sufficient for our needs. Here is Bill flattening the larger of his two benches. This one would be fitted with an Emmert K2 after it was finished. I was green with jealousy about this as I don’t own a K2 and in fact had never seen one complete in the flesh.
After lunch we took the screwed-up laminated legs out to the planer and got them edge planed to a width of exactly 5 inches, which was the width of the mortises we had already built.
With the legs now prepared fully it was time to cut the dovetails. The only space in the barn outfitted for the task was my own workshop, so all five of us were packed into that place to do the deed. It was some pretty close fellowship and actually turned out to be a lot of fun to work so closely together in a small space doing very confined tasks.
In a pleasant surprise(?) after sawing and a little but of tuning with a joiner’s rasp each of the twenty legs went into place with at most a gentle tap of the two pound sledge. No fierce beating was required whatsoever. Stewart, a comparative newcomer to furniture making (he had never before hand-planed a large surface and these were his first dovetails) was the first to get his bench up on its feet, followed in short order by the others.
Thus endeth Day 3, on schedule or even ahead of schedule.