Tag Archives: Green

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.

Spat_7

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.

Spat_10

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.

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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

It’s not Handworks

Manney_horse_1

But there is a free event that is hand tool related in Memphis, TN this Saturday (May 16, 2015) at 10:30. I will be giving a demo called “making a spatula from firewood” at the woodwork shop.  I know that spoon carving is all the rage, but spatulas are fast and easy.  There is no bowl so I carve the whole thing with a draw knife.

The Saturday demo’s are a great format and are always fun.  I’ve done a few on hand planes and I’m always surprised by how many people show up.  Must be because it’s free.

Anyway, I asked Mrs Rita if I could do something different this time and she encouraged this.  If the demo generates enough interest she may offer it as a Monday night class.  How would you like to leave a Monday night class with something you made that night?

So, if you can’t go to Handworks this weekend, come to the wood work shop and commiserate with some like minded folks.

Bob Jones

Book Review – Going with the Grain, Making Chairs in the 21st Century

Green_work

I haven’t made much progress on my dresser recently, and it is mostly because I’ve been dabbling in some green woodworking, following the instructions in Mike Abbott’s book, Going with the Grain, Building a Chair in the 21st Century.

Book

This is really more than a book review, it’s also a process review.  The author of this book, Mike Abbott teaches green woodworking courses in a magical woodworking Neverland in the UK and has for many years.  In this book, he has documented exactly how he teaches the art of building chairs from green wood.  And I do mean EXACTLY.  This is a picture book that is detailed beyond any other woodworking source (DVD’s included) I’ve ever seen. This book was designed to show anyone precisely what to do in building a chair with green techniques and why they should.  Typically, I’m far too prideful to follow any published plans too closely, but while reading this book I decided that Mike made his process look so easy that I had to try it just like he teaches it.  He lays out the whole process from the perspective of someone who has no tools and no experience building anything. It starts with the tools required (probably obtained for less than $300) then moves in to building a shaving horse with construction grade lumber.  To his credit, he skipped the token 2 pages on sharpening tools.  He covered that in his other book (Living Wood), and there is tons of sharpening instruction freely available online.

 

Reading

One day I expect I will build a pretty, hardwood shaving horse.  In the meantime, this version that took me 2 hours to build is no compromise on functionality (only looks and comfort).  I built it 100% to Mike’s specifications, including a hardwood pin, which is the first thing I made using the shave horse.  I’m not publishing a how-to here because that is well documented in his book (you should buy it).

Club

I then turned to the next page and made a club (in the trustworthy hands of my nephew) with a piece of red oak firewood, again following his step by step process. The dabbling that I have been doing now is learning to use my froe and drawknife to make the first furniture project in the book – a footstool.  I thought this simple little stool was beneath me, but I decided that since these green techniques were new to me, I should start with the stool.

Stool_parts

I haven’t finished the stool yet, but I’m close.  Here’s all the pieces that I have so far.  I’m waiting for the rails/rungs to finish drying out so I can knock them into the legs. I rate this book as excellent for how-to instruction and highly recommend it to anyone considering building chairs.  Even if you think you want to saw chairs out of kiln dried lumber, this book is a great source and may convince you to find a fresh cut log instead.

Enough glowing, there are 2 problems opportunities with the book.  First, it was definitely written for woodworkers who love their Queen.  Almost all sources listed are UK based and all dimensions are given in metric (most have conversions given in Imperial).  If you can’t convert units (1 inch = 25.4mm), try Google.  (Apparently a new 2nd edition corrects this.)

One plus for North Americans is easy access to the only proprietary tool he recommends, the Lee Valley 5/8 inch tenon cutter.  So, living in North America actually makes it easier to follow this distinctive teaching.

The second issue is that he generally goes from the tree in the woods to completed chair in a week or so.  Why is that a problem?  Mike “turns” tenons while the wood is very green and plans for them to shrink into ovals (like a naturally wedged M&T).  This is fine and good if you are working with wood that is still dripping wet, but what about wood that is semi-green, or closer to dry?  I’m currently working with some cherry that I quartered a few months ago, and I’ve tried to keep green.  In my experimenting so far, this wood does not shrink up as much as Mike teaches, but he shows what to do in this case.

FYI – I’m working on a modified technique for semi-green wood.  I’ll post it here if it works (and if it doesn’t). After I finish the foot stool, I hope to build a few bar stools for our kitchen and then a spindle back chair (or 6).  Both of these builds are covered in this book in plenty of detail.  I’m really enjoying the process of green woodworking.  There is just something great about dominating a massive log with a wedge and maul, then finessing firewood with a froe and drawknife to yield the pieces needed that makes you feel like you can make anything.  That’s a powerful feeling.

Bob Jones

Finding wood – The right and wrong ways

The search for good and affordable materials is fun for any craftsman.  In my few years as an aspiring woodworker, I have been fortunate enough to receive a free walnut log (great) and unlucky enough to buy a pallet of maple boards that must have been sawn from a hyperactive tree because they would not settle down or be still (bad).  In the last two weeks I have topped both of those experiences with all new best and worst lumber acquisition experiences.

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Lets start with the best – free black cherry logs.

I have wanted to try my hand at some “green woodworking” projects for a while now.  A big challenge for someone living in suburbia is finding green wood.  If you don’t own land or have friends that do, you may say that green wood (logs) is not accessible to you.  That’s garbage.  If you live somewhere that trees grow, you can get logs (sorry, Phoenix).  Ask around.  Anyone who clears land (like builders or developers) will probably give you some logs if you will haul them away.  Other good sources are tree service companies.  Most of them just mulch logs.

Back to my story.  I was driving in my subdivision past a new construction site and noticed a felled tree left by the curb.  I stopped and asked a worker what they were going to do with the logs.  The “worker” turned out to be the builder and after I told him why I wanted the tree, he told me to take what I wanted.  For Free??!!  Yippee!!! Thankfully, I own a truck.  I loaded up 6 cherry logs that were 12 to 17 inches in diameter and 3 to 4 feet long.  They are just large enough to yield a lot of material without being too heavy to handle on my own.  The best part about them (other than price) is the absolute lack of branches.  None of these logs any have branches, so they should split nicely.  I hope to follow Mike Abbott’s instructions and build some 21st Century Chairs as described in his excellent book.  For now I have coated the ends with wax, piled the logs under my only tree, and covered them with landscaping fabric.  I’m trying to keep these logs as green as possible without losing them to rot.  I can’t wait to open them up, but I’m making myself finish this dresser first.

Helper_3  Helper_2 Helper_1

I had a little help moving the logs around.  They helped at least long enough to snap these pictures.

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Now for the worst – reclaimed barn wood full of iron.  I would call them nails, but my wife more accurately called them spikes.  Yikes.  I’m pretty sure these are not coming out of there.

Let’s just say that I should have known better than to buy lumber over the phone without seeing it first.  Of course, it basically matched the stated description, but I forgot to ask one key question – “Are there really huge nails in the wood?”  Yes, I think I could sell them for scrap metal and come out ahead.  How does this happen?  The conversation with the nice retired man in his VFW jacket went something like this:  “Yes, thanks for delivering the posts for free… hmmm, those look pretty rough…Oh, I’m sorry your wife has cancer… yeah, I will still take them.” I’m a sucker.  At least they were (relatively) cheap and the wood is solid oak.  They should burn nicely if I can cut them up.

Oak_1  Oak_3

I was going to build my Roubo lathe with these – now I’m thinking “not so much”.  I think some 8/4 lumber yard materials are in my future.

So there you have it.  Don’t pass up free wood, and always ask about nails.

Bob Jones