Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spoon Carving Video

Finally got that video I mentioned about spoon carving up.  I was having some trouble with youtube, but it's solved now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Montreal.
 I spent this last weekend in Montreal with a couple of good friends, it's about a 6 hour drive north of here.  I saw a couple of interesting things woodworking-wise, and some plain old interesting things.  I was a bit surprised to see just how French the city and surrounding areas is.  Outside of restaurant menus in the touristy areas and some select safety messages, just about all of the signage etc is in French.  Everyone that we interacted with was very polite and helpful.  A funny thing was when you approach someone, they greet with "bonjour!", and depending on whether you reply in kind or in English they either speak to you in French or English.  At first we tried to play it cool and reply with "Bonjour", but then we just looked stupid shaking our heads and trying to politely express that we didn't know French.

Ah the Schtroumpfs, also known stateside as the Smurfs.  Interesting translation.

Interesting architecture.

The French Pirates, quite good.

Dovetails hidden by molding.
While there, we visited the archeological museum, which was interesting if a bit of propaganda for how great the city is.  The museum was built on the foundation of a historical building, maintaining the foundation in the basement.  Some interesting construction details, including the wood pillars buried in the ground beneath the tall tower, a technique apparently used effectively in Venice to stabilize buildings in unsound soil.  The wood rotted, though, and the tower had to come down.  In the basement, the wood pillars are exposed, in all their rotted glory.  On at least one of them I saw what appeared to be hewing marks, though the beams appeared to be extremely regular (perhaps more regular than I might expect from hand hewn timber).  I suppose a skilled axeman could efficiently produce a near-perfect timber, so it's not unlikely that these were entirely hand hewn.  In one corner there was also a kid's play area, which had a costume chest like a simple blanket chest or tool chest, with nice hand cut dovetails in the corners, and staggered glue joints.  There was also a cupboard sort of thing, with dovetails covered with moldings.

Drawbored mortise and tenon in a cabinet door.

Blanket chest (or tool chest?)


Hand hewn?
 Overall we had a great weekend and really enjoyed the city.  I could see myself enjoying getting to know it a bit better in the future, it would be nice to find some of the places off the beaten path.  We also didn't make it to the Mont Royal park, which is supposed to be very nice.  Next time I go, I'm definitely going to bring my bike.  Though the Metro was very simple and effective, I like the freedom of having wheels, and the city is very bike friendly besides.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


 I can't get blogger to orient the photos correctly, so we'll just have to make do with them the way they are.  These are a few spoons that I've carved out of Maple the last couple of days.  I roughed them all out with the axe at once, and I knifed them in a couple of sessions.  Once they have a few days to dry out, I'll give my knife a fresh sharpening and finish them out.

Below I included a picture to show the variations in side profile I tried with this batch.  The deep one is the flat front scoop pictured above, and the straight is one of the small spoons near the hook knife.

For these spoons I took down a small Maple sapling, maybe 3-4" diameter at the base, and roughed out this batch within the first hour of having it down.  Sometimes I forget how much easier greenwood is to work than the dry or semi-dry stuff I have laying around.  With these small, fairly straight spoons I can get close to the 10 minute mark for a halfway decent spoon.  I might do a video later today in real-time of carving one.

When It Rains

The trouble with working in an outdoor "shop" as I prefer to do in the summer is that it's hard to get much done when it rains.  I could buy one of those cheap pop up tents, to keep the sun and rain off, but that just doesn't appeal to me that much.  And it's not critical that I can keep working on my little projects day in and out, since they're not making me any money.

So, because I have no pictures and only unedited video of the thing I've been working on the last few days, here is a great video of (I believe) Swedish woodworking in the late twenties: Link  This includes a clog maker, spoon carver, and chair makers.  They all work with a great deal of efficiency and precision, and with a fairly small tool kit.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Some New Tools

After I got back from NH, I decided that I needed a couple of things.  I ordered up a plane sack for my Veritas plow plane, because it's a bit awkward to store safely.  I'm thinking about getting sacks for my other planes as well now that I've seen that these are pretty nicely made.  I could also just buy gun sacks, made from the same stuff (3 for $15), and cut and stitch them to the appropriate lengths.  Because I left my framing square up north, I also decided to try out one of the Japanese squares that Lee Valley sells, in addition to a nice precise 12" rule (made by Shinwa, not pictured).  While I was on the site, I saw that Lee Valley was running a special on Narex bevel edge chisels, with even lands.  I could use a decent set of chisels, all of mine are crummy butt chisels I've collected.  I decided to pull the trigger, since I have the Narex mortise chisels and have been pleased with them.  I went for the set of four, because I don't need any more (and these four are probably more than enough).

You can see here after a couple of flattening strokes on each what kind of shape they were in.  Apart from the 3/4", all of these flattened up relatively easily.  The 3/4" will flatten out gradually as I sharpen it in the future, but for the time being I used something resembling "the ruler trick" to just flatten a narrow strip right behind the cutting edge.  I sharpened up to 600 grit DMT, stropped and packed them away in my new canvas roll.  Interestingly, the 1/2" felt the best in my hand as far as balance...hard to put into words, but it just feels incredibly elegant and nimble.  The lands aren't quite as narrow as I was hoping (and as appeared in the renderings on the site), but they will do.  I also wouldn't mind seeing a steeper angle on the bevels, as it is they wouldn't go too far for clearing the insides of dovetails, which is the only joint that I commonly cut where a bevel edge is a boon.  But maybe I'm asking too much of a set of chisels that I paid less than $10 a piece for.

A few words on the square: I bought this thinking it would make a nice lightweight framing square.  As soon as I went to use it to lay out some datum on a stick, however, I discovered that it's no good for the way I work.  In NH where I learned to lay out datum (the ideal reference planes projected through the timber), we worked from the inside of the square, using the scale on the inside of the tongue for marking the top and side measurements.  The Japanese square is only graduated on the outside edges, making it difficult to use in this fashion.  It will still be a handy small square, but will probably see a lot less use than my regular framing square because the framing square will be around for other tasks anyways.

I handled a couple of the Shinwa 12" rules in NH, and so when I decided I needed to replace my Staedtler rule (nothing inherently wrong with it, but it's not ideal for carpentry) I thought first of the Shinwa.  I decided to go ahead and order the Lee Valley cabinet maker's rule, and when it arrived I was surprised to see that it was in fact the Shinwa.  Very nice rule.  Precision graduations to 64ths on one scale, just in case, and overall a nice precision stainless steel rule.  I forgot that I had ordered it at all, until I was pulling my receipt out from under the packing paper in the box and discovered it, hence the exclusion from photos.  I even got to put it to some use setting the fence on the table saw at work, much more accurate than the tape measure. 

Monday, August 01, 2011

Finishing Up

Sorry for the gap in posting.  We started to get down to the wire, working upwards of 12 hours each day, and I didn't have the energy or the particular inclination to get on to post.  So I'm going to put up the last few days in one post.

We assembled one truss, got it upright and stabilized, then assembled and righted the other truss.  The trick to these was making sure they went up on rollers on the timber track that some of the crew constructed earlier in the week.  Once they were both up, we could install the tie beams with the knee braces, install the floor joists and decking, and finally install the rafters.  We got the roof sheathed in 1x, and got some good bracing in place for the locals that will roof the bridge.  All of this done, the riggers Grigg 2 and Grigg 3 prepared to roll the bridge over the falseworks and drop it in place.  Stable on the rollers and rigged up to a Tirfor, a large winch-like device, it slowly crawled into place.  It was jacked up, the falseworks removed (the timbers from which became a raft and a log rolling game for me and a few others), and it was settled into place on some Black Locust blocks.

My sharpening setup that I kept in my toolbox.  A 6x2" 220/600 grit DMT, and a two sided strop with black and green compound.  With a little spit or a dribble from my water bottle, this system allowed me to quickly and easily keep the edges on my tools sharp without having to walk back to the sharpening station at the other end of the site.

Cancelling the wind in a stick of timber using framing squares as winding sticks.

Will Truax, professional bridgewright, trimming a joint with a Gransfors forest axe.

This young man jumped right into planing, using my Stanley #8 with no problems.  He both pushed and pulled it, not seeming to have a preference.

Baron mean-mugging while trimming the roof sheathing.

My new friend Emma having fun with the camera.

Consulting with Bruce.

Grigg 2, the senior rigger.

Trimming decking made of 8/4 White Oak.

Joel McCarty, executive director of The Timber Framer's Guild, looking on.

Pulling the bridge into place.

Pirates trying to capsize my raft on Wason Pond.  Below, a spoon I carved in small increments in between the three primary activities: working, eating, and sleeping.  It's made from a hunk of White Birch I got from Dick Lewis, the sawyer that cut all the timber for the bridge.  I think it might be my favorite spoon that I've carved.