Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Craftsman Effect

  Yesterday my wife, daughter and I were sitting at the bar in my friends restaurant having a drink. It is my forty ninth birthday and we decided to come for dinner to mark the event.

  I was looking at the others patrons sitting at the bar. Yes I admit that I am gawker. But I find people most interesting. So many differences. But lets get back on track here. As most of them leaned on the cove bar rail that I crafted for my friend it started me thinking. Thinking how good I felt seeing them use the railing while they talked and smiled. For them to know that I built it was not important. The railing is important. Important to their comfort which helps them relax which leads to easy conversation and a memorable visit to this place. How many lives had I affected since I put this rail on the bar two years ago? My finished work was much more important than I first thought. I feel humbled.

   I sank farther into my mind and pondered the following about life.

  Forty Nine, not a celebrated year like others. Fifty is the new Forty they say. Bullshit say I, you can't go back. This is the year that comes with the quite realization that youth is long gone and the end is closer than one thought. You will step off into what for most men is the last productive quarter of their lives. I believe seventy five (for me and most anyway) is the end of workable life. After this point you can offer advice to those who would listen or pretend to listen.

  So here I am, at the edge of a long downward slope to the end. Yup over the hill. This slope need not be steep and swift. I think that I have, or hope that I have the control over the speed of decent. I hope the next twenty five will be healthy and fruitful. I hope to continue to craft beautiful items which will be enjoyed or cherished by those who will be here long after I have passed.

   In the last quarter I hope to teach another, inspire many and leave items that one can touch and feel. Hopefully they will feel what I felt when I crafted those items. The comfort of a well built chair. The relaxing support of a perfectly crafted cove railing. The smoothness of a finely finished table top.
The soft light of a beautiful lamp. Using a handily shaped spoon. The waiting bench built with strong arms shaped to ease oneself into a standing position. The sturdy comfort of a well fitted bed frame. The embrace of a smooth rocking chair. The easy reach to an end table or nightstand. The sturdy dining table built for many to gather around to feast and make merry.

   I want to leave behind well built and comfortable items that can make people feel good for many generations to come. This will be my legacy. My mark on the world. Unsung or not, I will know that I tried my best. Hopefully my best will be enjoyed by all and stand against the ravages of time.

   Time. I hate you.
You never stand still. You are a thief. I think I own the moments but I do not. Time allows you to do what you wish with those moments. If you waste moments, Time does not care. Time has an endless supply.

  So Time, I will try to make every moment from here on in count to me and everyone I know.

Thanks for reading

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Cherry Bed Frame

   I built this interesting bed frame for Shannon and I after I found it on the internet.
This bed is derived from one that is built by Thos. Moser. It is almost exactly the same but ours has wider rails on the top of the foot and headboards. The shape mimicks that of Japanese Torii Gate that one would see at a Shinto Shrine. The torii gate symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. Correct for a bed frame in the eyes of a Buddhist? I don't know but I love the shape.

This is what I started with on the first morning. Big slabs of magnificent cherry. My favorite.

Starting time in the shop after I carried in the wood from storage area.

This is what you have by 3:30 in the afternoon. All the parts squared ready for shaping.

The next day started with shaping parts, lots of curly shavings when you clean up the cuts.

Clamping up the foot board. The head board will be done in a similar fashion.

Foot board assembled with a coat of oil varnish on it.

Third day the head board assembled and coated with oil varnish. Makes cherry wood glow.
Later that day and the side rails are in and the bed is done. Happy Valentines Day.

As always thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

If One has Skills

Excerpt from Fine Wood Working Magazine 1979
 They were interviewing legendary craftsman George Nakashima, Japanese American.

FWW:   What do you say to a young person who wants to be­ come a woodworker?

   "That happens so often, we have a waiting list of maybe 300, and I say to them we aren't taking on any­ body. . . .It cost me maybe $500 a month to break in a new man, I'm out of pocket that, and then if he goes in two years I'm out maybe five or ten thousand dollars, and very often he doesn't even say thank you. 
  I'm not in that kind of position, so I tell them the thing to do is go to some craft school like Rhode Island, or the best is to go to Germany or Japan where they have real apprenticeship programs, and several people have taken me up on that.
  There's so many of the young wanting to do that, but it's almost all completely romantic, they have no idea of what is involved, what they're getting into and actually what they want. 
  Skills are maybe the finest resources any nation can have, and we don't have that in this country and that's why things are getting so bad. This country (USA) prides itself on automobiles and can't even make a decent automobile, a sad situation. Whereas if one has skills, one could make the slums bloom with no money at all, simply by work and skills. " 

  Still resounds with truth today, not only in the US but at home here as well.

  Just look around at all the unemployed youth. Our education system does not have a viable solution.
Anything learned in class must have a path that leads to some way to use what has been learned or it is useless as Latin in the checkout line. 
The government is announcing plans for big apprenticeship programs to help youth. But I fear what was learned must be relearned in order to perform the tasks of the apprentice. To little to late?
Thanks for reading

Friday, 7 February 2014

Walnut and Maple Blanket Box

  I built this blanket box for Alex as her Christmas present.
Built from walnut and maple to match her bed frame I made a couple of years ago.
Yes I am late as you can see. Luckily she is so understanding.

Legs and rails all fitted together, next panels to fill it in and some curves to be cut.
Making up the side panels.

Rails for the side and ends getting a little curve on the bottom.

Through tenons always add a nice touch.

Curve on the legs too.
Starting to look like a box.

Here it is with stained panels and 2 coats of shellac.
Of course it wouldn't be a blanket box without the aromatic cedar.
It even looks nice on the inside, what ya think.
Here it is with the lid on it. Just have to put on some hinges tomorrow and some hold opens and this one is history.

Looks nice in my bedroom too. 
 These through tenons came out nicely this time.

   This chest was based on an article from Fine Woodworking probably about ten years ago. My dimensions are a little different but the idea of frame and panel construction is still the same. The chest in the article was built with cherry and curly maple two of my personal favorites so I finally built it just with different materials.

  I hope this chest lasts a few generations. Alex can tell her grandchildren about their great grandfather and what a fun guy he was who coached Alexandra in hockey and helped her learn to ride motocross bikes so she could finally race with the pros.

 Maybe someday Alex's great grand child will keep her gold medal from the olympics in this box. Well maybe just some nice stuff.

  Since the first time I ran my father's handsaw through a pine board I knew that I was going to make all kinds of things out of wood. Thanks Dad, for giving me that saw and lumber. Moments that I will never ever forget.
  I will also never forget my friend Jody who always wanted to help. She would sit on part of the board so it would not move so much. She would sit on there and watch me cut wood for a long time. So thank you too Jody. Without your help this project might not have been possible without so much practice. I hope time has found you safe.

Thanks for reading
Hope you enjoyed.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Left Over Parts makes Nice Coffee Table

   What can I do with these legs from that butcher block I repaired?  What can I do with these old pallet boards. Hmmm..... and these clunky old square headed lag bolts.

  Looks like a coffee table to me. Lets say 39" long x 22"wide and 18" high.

And just say the magic words 'ala-asparagus-and-brusselsprout-sandwiches' and there it is.

This table is for sale at a real good price.

As always
Thanks for looking

Refinishing an Oak Table Top.

  Here's to Anne Marie, thanks for calling on me to do this job for you. Nice change of pace for me.
Nice 36 inch round oak table that has to leafs to extend to 5 feet long. Quite well built I must say.
I believe it stands on a single pedestal. Not absolutely sure as I have only seen the top.

 Oak table top stripping happening here.

 Then stained then a few coats of polyurethane.
Looking good. Don't worry it is still the same color the photos were taken under different light.

Ready to go Anne Marie.

As always thanks for reading

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Day in the One Man Shop, Well most Days.

 Woodworking in a small shop making items one at a time is not just a job but a lifestyle.

  I cherish the ability to stop what i am doing to address a situation as it arises in everyday life. The trade off is you may find yourself in the shop at odd hours when working on a commission.

  I've woken early in the morning, feeling refreshed I head out to the the shop. Work a few hours, come in and see everyone as they rise for the day. Get in a little small talk and a hug before they head out for the day. I really like that.

  I've also woken late, guess I needed the rest. I can start a little later today. It's alright with the boss.

  Following the morning break is a good time to take Jack (our giant yellow lab) for a walk. More for my health than his. Then return to the shop where the dog takes a nap in front of the table saw. I always strive to have some handwork for this time of the day. Jack is 13 years old and I hate to disturb his slumber.

  I try to stop each day for a light lunch. A little 10 minute snooze and back out to the shop.

  I am usually working away busily in the late afternoon as the family returns home. Nice to take a moment and chat with them about their day.

  It can be lonely working in the shop by yourself. Isn't that right Ken. As long as I don't answer the doctor says it's fine.  It's okay really though. I grew up without siblings so being on my own for stretches of time isn't that difficult for me.

  I like it when anyone visits my shop. Wow is usually the first word they say. Most people think a huge shop is required to make furniture. Not so, I can do all sorts of work in this 400 square foot shop.

  On rare occasions during a good song rolling out of the stereo I kind of stop and do a little jig to the likes of Johnny Cash or Stompin Tom. Then it's back to work, if I can call it that.

  Most days I wrap up around 5:30 to 6:00 so I can eat dinner with Shannon and Alex when Alex is home. On some days I do go back in for an hour or so to prep things for the next day.

  It's a restful routine actually. I hope to carry on for many years to come if I can be so lucky.

If ever you have me make something for you, just remember, it was truly a pleasure to work for you.

thanks for reading
and have a great day

Saturday, 1 February 2014

What Makes a Sucessful Woodworker or does a Woodchuck just Chuck Wood.

While working today a thought flashed into my mind. When is a woodworker considered to be a successful woodworker? Never really thought much of it before.
I am thinking of someone who works this craft as a way to make money, yes a professional.

Many hobby woodworkers do great work but it is not their main source of income.

   Most professional woodworkers write articles for magazines to supplement their income. Some teach at schools for extra income or they are just sought after for their special skill sets.

   A long time ago I would say success is measured by the amount of work they can produce.
Not so long ago it would be measured by the amount of any style work produced with a profitable return for said work.

  How about amount of profitable work that has that heirloom quality look and feel.

  Profitable work that is heirloom quality for the masses.

 Scrub that last statement as it can only be finite.

   A successful woodworker can only judge success for themselves. I see lots of successful looking woodworkers on the internet but are they a slave or the master. Most I look up to have mastered their way of living to include woodworking as part of their daily life. Lots of work to build good, not very much, well cut some firewood. If you are skilled and honest, work will find you soon enough.

  How much one can produce is really just a small part of the picture. What pieces they make are what really counts to them as much as the client.

  In my case I try to make a quality piece with proportional beauty as best I possibly can today with what I have.
When you look at that piece it is really a reflection of me. A reflection of my mood, health, family happiness and my mental state. Not just my skill level and good wood selection.

    The woodworker likes wood. They examine the wood to make the best use of what it has to offer. If the piece is not satisfactory, put it down and find another. A piece put aside today may be perfect for the next time.
 The woodworker must remember to reach beyond their comfort level now and then so they can grow.
 A conscientious woodworker will refer you to someone they trust if the client is asking for something that is beyond his skill level or they do not have the tools to build such items.

Most important to me a woodworker must teach at least one other what they know about working wood. 

How about using your skill and place of work to help others in ways beyond making objects for them?

  I challenge anyone physically capable to come in and make a spoon and spatula out of wood. I will instruct you to safely use the two necessary tools and give you the confidence to use them. Ten  minutes or so after the instructions you will barely notice there is anything happening beyond the walls of the shop space. After 2 hours you will feel refreshed and focused. I am sure of it.

  The woodworker should educate people who will listen about the differences about hand made furniture and mass production to further the appreciation of hand crafted items. You can buy furniture where ever you like but if you ask me I will give you my honest opinion.

  The woodworker should be tactful when talking to clients about furniture. For example,  DO NOT use a clients 1920's era china cabinet given to them by Aunt Myrtle which they consider a priceless masterpiece made of solid mahogany from England and give them the bad news that it was probably made in Grand Rapids, Michigan during the great furniture rush and show them the proof through all the design flaws and short cuts, terrible veneering and the inspected by number 09 sticker under the drawer.

You will probably find yourself in a prone position on their front lawn maybe followed by the china cabinet landing on your back.

Even still a woodworker must be brave and sure and maybe a little athletic.

Some will say there is much more than what I have written here and I am sure there is. I don't know everything about this craft, you learn something different almost every day.

After many life altering events a man once said, "One truly knows it all when they realize they rarely understand anything." That's mine, you can use it if you want.

 Woodworking in a small shop making items one at a time is not just a job to me but a lifestyle.
A lifestyle that is often rewarding far beyond the work itself.

Thanks for reading