Tag Archives: family

Quick update and local news

A few readers have asked if I’m still alive and/or building things out of wood.  I’m confirming both to the affirmative.  Thanks for the notes!  I suppose an update is in order.

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You may have noticed that I just posted a lot of tools on my “for sale” page.  Don’t panic!  I haven’t quit woodworking and I’m not planning to die anytime soon.  I’m just reducing the number of tools that I have in my shop.  After my trip to a LN Hand Tool event, I’ve been hooked.  I’ve been switching over to LN planes (slowly) and I just haven’t been using the Stanleys as often.  I’m the type of person who can not keep things that I’m not using, so these tools can go to new homes if people will give me a fair price for them.

teacher

In other news, I’m scheduled to teach another hand plane class at the woodwork shop in Memphis, TN on April 25.  Watch that date – it may change to May.  I hope lots of people turn out because the class is always fun.  I really enjoy introducing people to the experience of using a well-tuned plane.  I never tire of seeing the fun people have when they experience how easy it is to surface wood with a sharp iron and good technique.

Now, for the “update”.  What have I been doing?  My middle daughter (call her K) expressed an interest in robotics a few months ago.  Thanks Disney and Big Hero 6.  I didn’t need much encouragement to pursue this interest since it involves making things and learning about new stuff.  I decided that building drones would be a fun way to teach/learn robotics, so that has consumed most of my shop time recently.

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Daughter (K) and nephew (J) really enjoy their time at the local R/C airfield.

Naturally, I’ve been working on what is called “scratch builds”.  Designing and building toys airplanes is just as fun as building furniture, it’s just a lot more temporary.  One crash and they are done.  I’ve developed a reputation at the R/C airfield for trying crazy designs – that fly a little crazy.

Airplane_3 Airplane_2

I can testify that a french workbench is also an excellent workbench for other building hobbies.

Least you think that I’m done with wood – fear not.  I’ve been working on some “staked furniture” as described by CS in his excellent new book.  I’m reading it now and will post a review when I’m done.  Suffice to say it is excellent and the techniques he describes can make the process of building nice furniture faster and easier than you think.  Buy it.

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Recent experiemental builds – 2 stools and a staked sawbench

Here are 3 things I’ve built recently as experiments.  The sawbench (far right) is a test of strength.  The legs are only 3/4 inch diameter at the top.  I wanted to test the limits of this staked technique.  It can hold 200 lbs with little trouble, providing the floor is not slippery.  That’s impressive considering how spindly the legs and top are.  It is super light, which is helpful for this shop appliance.  The carved stool on the left was an experiment in carving a seat.  Not great, but still surprisingly comfortable.  The stool in the middle is my best so far.  I plan to build 3 more like it next.  I should be able to do a build series on it, so stay tuned.  I think that’s all I can type for now.

Bob Jones

Too much for one post (spoon carving and events)

Spat_1

You could call this project a spoon, but I consider it a spatula.  It has no bowl, requires no concave blade (like a hook knife), and can be carved completely with a drawknife and very little skill.  How’s that for a fun project?  I gave a demo on this process some time back at the woodwork shop and I promised to write about it.  The promise was almost broken, but since I have not received any complaints, I guess it is ok that this post took a few months.

Spat_2 Spat_3

I’ll just jump right in.  The process is best started with firewood of some type.  Fruit woods work great, but lots of other woods work, too.  Stay away from oak or other “ring porous” hardwoods because the pores can harbor bacteria.  Anyway, split that chunk of firewood by any means available to you.  Here I am using a wedge, maul, and hardware store handsaw.

Spat_4 Spat_5

Keep working the wood into smaller pieces.  Wood likes to split in half.  As the pieces get thinner a froe can be very helpful, but not necessary in pieces this short.

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Here’s a good “green woodworking” tip for those of us who don’t have time to use a whole log before it dries.  Wet your wood.  Get the pieces to rough size and soak them in any type of container that will hold them and water.  Here I used a plastic bin that was sold as a wrapping paper storage system.  If the wood is pretty dry, leave it here as long as you can (at least 2 weeks).  Reconstituted wood is not the same as fresh green, but it’s better than dry.

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Once you have re-wet the spoon sized blank of wood, get in front of a crowd of about 30 woodworkers to finish the job.  Ok, you can do this alone but it’s way more fun with others.  Toward the end of summer I was invited to speak to a woodworking club in Tupelo, Mississippi (just down the road from home in Hernando).  The organizer, Marty, asked me to come speak to them.  I convinced him that I had nothing interesting to say, but I would be glad to show them how I carved a spatula.  This idea caught on and the club members really turned up in force to watch.

Spat_8 Spat_9

Back to the process – Work the blank to something that is rather flat.  This flat is where you draw the profile of the spatula.  It’s really helpful to draw a centerline and the shape to guide your eyes.  Notice that I’ve left waste wood beyond the big end to hold in the clamp.  The shaving horse has so much clamping force that this wood will inevitably get deformed.  Now, carve away, starting with the areas that require the most removal.

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I really like the low profile head of this shaving horse.  It lets me work easily on both sides of the head which is very handy for carving!  Flip the spatula around a few times and remove wood from anywhere that needs to be lightened.  As the spatula gets thinner the work gets more interesting (and risky).  Starting with split wood, rather than sawn, makes these thin components stronger than they look.

Spat_11

When the carving is complete, cut the spatula to length and finish up.  Give the spatula to one of your new friends, or keep it for your spouse in appreciation for her letting you do a little woodworking on Saturday.  With the spatula complete, it’s time for some family adventure.

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Yes, it’s a long bike.  Yes, we get a lot of funny looks.

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If you find yourself in the Tupelo, MS area with some free time, I highly suggest bringing your bicycle.  After the spatula carving demo my whole family went on a bike ride on the Tanglefoot Trail.  We only did 8 miles, but the trail is over 40 miles, it’s mostly flat, and it’s paved!

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Not a bicyclist?  No problem.  New Albany (trailhead for Tanglefoot) has a great little family friendly restaurant in their picture perfect downtown.  Fat Luey’s serves up some great catfish tacos (a new personal Mississippi favorite) and sweet potato fries.  Seriously great food.

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Curious about my next woodworking event?  No need to wait, it will be this weekend.  Yep, on Halloween day (2015) I’m giving a free demo at the Woodwork Shop on making three legged stools.  The process is super simple and requires few tools.  I hope to see some blog readers there, just don’t be late.  I’ve got three little girls that need to beg for obscene amounts of candy from neighbors.

Bob Jones

Constitution Village and spottings of “Furniture of Necessity”

great_wheel

Our tour guide had no problem using a little child labor to turn the “great wheel” lathe.

On a recent family vacation to Huntsville, Alabama we made a stop at a living history museum.  It was a small, low key place, but I really enjoyed the visit.  My reason for wanting to visit was the cabinet shop.  I was very comfortable in there.  I prided myself on knowing what everything in the shop was and how it was used.  Sorry if that sounds prideful, but it was a simple shop and I’ve been studying this craft for a little while now.  The cabinet shop seemed strangely modern to me, for a living history museum.  There were few actual antiques and most tools were modern reproductions.  The tour guide was very friendly and I wanted so badly to step in an do the working while he did the talking.  Not wanting to be guided off the property, I restrained myself.  Maybe next time.

coffin

The cabinet shop didn’t just have tools.  It also held some of the typical projects completed therein.  The walls were lined with windsor chairs and this casket was on top of a workbench.  The first thing this brought to mind was a book that Christopher Schwarz is working on called “Furniture of Necessity“.  I tried to get Chris to name it something with “Permanence” in it, but he wasn’t moved.  Anyway, it was funny to see something that most woodworkers would consider an oddity as one of the primary objects of display in the shop.

chair-room

Sorry for the lighting – the chair is the one in the shade of the desk.

The tour also included a few houses.  Compared to other museums there was not much unique there, but I did spy this Windsor chair.  What caught my eye was the seat.  It looked like it was shaped only with a jack plane, like CS mentioned on his blog here.  It is similar to the one Chris is building, but with 4 legs (how boring).

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It was hard to tell from across the room, but I think the scooping of this chair was more extensive than what CS did in his post.  I wanted to jump the velvet rope and give the chair a try, but I’m certain that would have embarrassed my wife into disowning me.  She is a rule follower for sure.  All in all, the museum was nice and I could have been happy to spend all day in that shop.  They really need someone there who knows how to sharpen tools.

Changing topics – thanks to everyone who looked over at my tools for sale page.  Double thanks to those who bought anything.  Most items sold quickly, but a few things remain.  I’ve dropped the prices of all remaining tools but I’m not likely to drop them further, so if you were waiting for a better deal now is the time to strike.

Bob Jones

My little whittler

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I heard a quote about parenting that goes something like this, “You have to tell your children ‘no’ most of the time so say ‘yes’ any time you can”.  I think credit goes to Dr. James Dobson.  I practice that philosophy by saying ‘yes’ anytime I can with my girls.  When I see them writing on their arms with pen, I laugh and say  it looks nice.  When they play in the mud, I get out the water hose and wait for them to finish.  And when my 8 year old daughter asked for a knife, I decided it was time to say ‘yes’.

I let her select the knife, with my guidance.  We bought one that fit her hand and was made in the USA.  I sharpened it up and proceeded to show her how to handle it safely.   Once I let her go with her knife and a nice chunk of softwood, she started having fun with it.  I watched her work for the first few minutes to give her instruction and she did great.  I told her there was a boat trapped in that block and she needed to find it.  That will take a while.

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For anyone who thinks I’m reckless, my 5 year old daughter wants a knife like her big sister but I am telling her ‘no’ a little longer.

Bob Jones