Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lost Stickley Side Table

Enough with the distractions and being impressed with myself, time to build some furniture with my new workbench. I'm building "The Lost Stickley Side Table" reproduced by Robert Lang in Popular Woodworking's Arts & Crafts Furniture Projects. Only one example was ever known to be made, presumed to be a prototype that was too complicated to go into mass production due to its angled legs.

I'm using quartersawn white oak, starting with the legs. They're formed as a lamination that shows quatersawn figure on all four sides. The core is two pieces of 13/16", for 1 5/8" total width. These are then faced with a 1/8" veneer front and back, for 1 7/8" depth.

Starting from rough 5/4 stock, I broke it down to rough 28" lengths, planed faces and one edge, and ripped to 1 3/4" width. Then I resawed these pieces to get one central core piece and one veneer piece from each; I need a total of 8 to form 4 legs.

Cutting the rough board to leg lengths.

Rough planing with the jack, several passes each of alternate diagonals and then down the length.

Flattening with the jointer, followed by a few quick passes from the smoother,  then edge jointing. Yeah, I took my sweater off, this keeps you warm in a cold basement!

Gauging the thickness for the opposite face.

Showing what a nice surface this oak takes after less than 10 minutes of planing.

Before; after.

Making a starting notch for the rip cut. This allows a precise start.

I don't have much spare wood, so I need to make these rips good and split the line.

Finishing off the next rip.

For the resawing, I gauged it to 1/4" for the final 1/8" veneer, since the 5/4 stock gave me at least an extra 1/4", even after planing. How do you resaw a 1/4" thickness 28" long? Very carefully!

Establishing the kerf with a dovetail saw for maximum control.

Using my large ripsaw for the rest. How did all those shavings magically appear after that last picture?!?

Here you can see the thickness I'm trying to maintain.

Halfway through, alternately flipping the piece every few inches.

The resulting veneer and core piece.

The four pieces needed to form a leg. Front two are cut-side up, rear two planed-side up.

The pieces dry fit to show the lamination structure. This will leave plenty of fat to plane down to final precise dimensions; I'll just need to pay attention to grain orientation so it runs in the same direction on all pieces that form a face.

This lamination construction allows me to avoid having to thickness-plane the thin pieces. Planing really thin stock is tricky to manage, and it doesn't take much to ruin a piece. I'll just glue the planed faces of the core pieces back-to-back, plane the sides flat after the glue has set, then glue on the veneers, planed face down. Once that glue has set, I'll plane all four rough faces to thickness and smoothness.

Just three more legs to go!

Recommended Books
 Popular Woodworking's Arts & Crafts Furniture: 25 Projects For Every Room In Your Home

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Processing Green Applewood

As predicted, Saturday's weather was cold and rainy. But that didn't stop me from starting work on the applewood logs I'd picked up on Wednesday. I wanted to try several methods of processing them to see how much time and effort they took and how nice the results might be.

You may see some things here that make you question my sanity! I'm OK with that.

Using the froe and club to score the top edge of the log so the wedge seats more easily in the desired spot. For smaller logs, this may be sufficient to split them. When it comes to riving (controlled splitting), the froe is the precision tool.

Most of these methods are directly out of Drew Langsner's Green Woodworking and The Chairmaker's Workshop. Both books are out of print, but you can find used copies for outrageous prices. He has some new copies available in the book section of his website. He also sells tools, in particular froes. A lot is also covered in Roy Underhill's spectacular new book, The Woodwright's Guide: Working Wood with Wedge & Edge.

Both Drew and Don Weber offer classes in these methods. It was Don's cover story, Entirely By Hand in the April, 2004 issue of Popular Woodworking that sent me down this garden path. But that's another blog story.

After a couple of blows with the sledge, the wedge is well seated and the crack has already run to the end.

In addition to gloves and eye protection, this is a good time to wear work boots, preferably steel-toed. Working with heavy metal implements and chunks of logs, something's bound to fall on your foot.

After driving the wedge fully, finishing off with a birch glut (a simple wooden wedge).

There are often crossing fibers holding the pieces together that need to be cleaned up with a hatchet. Note that everything is spraypainted orange because they vanish in the leaves as soon as you set them down, especially out in the woods.

Quartering the halves using just the froe. Alternate driving on each side of the log.

Crank the froe handle over to open the split. Drive further if necessary. 

Keep your fingers out of partial splits. The tension in the wood and cross-fibers has enough power to trap tools and crush fingers, especially in larger logs. Use gluts or additional wedges to open them up wider.

Rough hewing the pith. This is close work, so keep your fingers well clear of the path of the hatchet.

Rotate the piece and rough-hew the corners. Make a few chopping cuts to weaken the edge, then make a slicing cut to shear it off. Working toward a squared-up billet (the English term for a split section).

This billet will end up with a quartersawn orientation, since I'm interested in making blanks for plane bodies. These also make good turning blanks; removing the corners now prepares the blanks for the lathe. Alternatively, you can split to eighths and even sixteenths for smaller parts.

Cross-section of the single-bevel broad hatchet used for hewing. This makes a sweeping cut.

Having played in the rain enough, I moved into the workshop. First thing I tried there was flitch-cutting: flat-sawing a log into boards by hand (yes, this is where you say, "Huh? Is he bleepin' crazy?").

Ripping green wood requires large teeth. Digging through my stash of flea-market saws, I found a real gem: a Disston 4 1/2 ppi rip.

It needs a little care.

After about an hour of the Vintage Saws treatment: scraping the rust and crud, sanding with wet-dry auto-body sandpaper and mineral spirits, waxing, and sharpening.

Trimming the log for easier clamping. I knew that giant leg vise would come in handy!

Snapping chalk-lines after laying out the cuts.

Note that the center flitch contains the pith. That can then be cut out, known as boxing the heart, leaving two quartersawn pieces. This is how John Whelan obtained quartersawn beech for the planes in his book Making Traditional Wooden Planes.

Starting the first cut. This is your typical resawing operation, but heavier.

Making good progress. Using an offcut from my Ryoba Tenon Cheeks experiment as a kerf-keeper.

The only problem was that this was slow and extremely labor-intensive. I'd like to offer some of this applewood for sale so others can enjoy it, but at this rate I'd have to charge $30 a board-foot to make it worth my while. What I need is bigger teeth! And I have another flea-market gem.

Now that's a saw! Look at those rakers and teeth! 48 inches from toe of blade to the horn on the handle. My saw's bigger than your saw! Well, except for Adam Cherubini. He has that enormous four-foot framesaw.

Technically, this is a one-man crosscut saw, not a ripping saw, but for this short rip, it's fine. I haven't been able to find a pit saw.

That's more like it! Even without sharpening its teeth, this saw cut at four times the rate of the other one.

(Continue to part 2)

Recommended Books
Green Woodworking: A Hands-On-ApproachThe Chairmaker's Workshop: Handcrafting Windsor and Post-and-Rung ChairsThe Woodwright's Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and EdgeMaking Traditional Wooden Planes

Processing Green Applewood, part 2

(Go back to part 1)

When your significant other asks how many ratty saws you need, you can see the answer here: four (at least for ripping, you should have at least two more for crosscutting)!

Clockwise from bottom right, 8, 6, 4 1/2, and 2 ppi. For heavy work, the 4 1/2 is good for starting the cut and establishing the kerf for the big one. On the scale of coarse, medium, and fine, it's a shredder! Even at that size, you can still steer the cut a bit if you need to adjust it.

Having split the main body of the log, continuing with the other cuts. It's much easier to clamp in the vise now with a flat face.

As with any resaw operation, alternate working the piece from each side. Showing an alternate grip and body mechanics. This allows you to swing the saw through with shoulders and a bit of torso twist, giving your elbows a rest.

Finally, flip it end for end (with a kerf-keeper in the far end) and finish it off, again alternating sides.

The resulting stack of flitches, with a 24" folding rule for scale.

Remember those rough-hewn billets? Time to work on them.

Shaving the pith from a rough-hewn billet, with the drawknife used bevel-down. I'll rotate the billet to shave the sides. I built this shaving horse from Drew Langsner's books back in 2006. It was my very first all-hand-tool project. The foot-operated head makes it fast and easy to release and reclamp the piece when rotating it or flipping it end for end.

Why the wooden bib? That's not a bib, it's body armor! Green wood is slippery. The first time one slips out and punches you in the sternum, you'll understand.

Debarking. The green bark peels off easily. That exposes the wood underneath to the air for drying.

Using the chest-guard as a bearing plate to help hold the billet in place as I shave off the sapwood.

The billet ready for stacking. It's roughly squarish. I could spend more time to shape it perfectly, but there's no need. I want to remove as much as possible now to minimize drying time for the rest, but still leave as solid piece as I can. Precision shaping can come when I make something from it in a few years.

For comparison, here's a billet from a smaller diameter log that I rived and shaved two days earlier. That's when I decided I should rough-hew the initial corners, reducing the shaving effort. The moisture coming to the surface makes it look like it was in the rain. Note the dry end. Three months after felling and bucking, only the first quarter inch has dried. The dotted line shows the sapwood boundary.

The final method was quartersawing on the bandsaw. Yes, burning electrons. If there's one place where power tools are worth it, it's in handling rough timber. They can save hours of tedious labor that can be better spent doing fine joinery by hand.

However, my Shopsmith bandsaw doesn't have a big enough throat, so this had to be a hybrid operation. I sawed the log in half as above for flitch-cutting. I could have rived it in half more easily, but sawing leaves a flatter, smoother face for the bandsaw table. Riving, then coarse flattening with a scrub or fore plane is also an option.

It took me 45 minutes of sawing to rip the log down the center, pausing only to flip it periodically. I got my workout today! Once you get into the rhythm, this is steady aerobic work, much like swimming laps. Varying the position reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury (take it from an old lap swimmer).

The challenge bandsawing green wood is the random shape and rough bark. You can't fence it, and there's no single good height setting for the blade guide. You just have to snap chalk lines on the piece based on where the pith appears at each end and free-hand it, using a wide blade. Sighting across the length to line up the chalk line with the blade helps. This method would also work for flitch-cutting the halves on the bandsaw. The piece can be guided along a fence once a flat face has been established.

Pushing one of the halves through.

Pulling it through the remaining distance.

The four quarters. The pith was actually a little off center, so these aren't perfect wedges.

Trimming the pith. With the table at an angle and no fences or guides, this becomes a little riskier.

Trimming the side. Like the rived billets, this is going to be an approximately squared-up quartersawn blank. At this point there's probably a good enough flat on the side of the piece to allow a fence.

The final cut to remove the sapwood and bark.

Comparing the two rived and shaved billets with the four sawn quarters.

For the final steps, since I had the bandsaw set up, I did a fresh cut on each end to square them off and trim the cracked dry portion. Then I coated the ends with exterior latex paint. Once it dries (if it ever does, given the moist substrate), I'll mark the ends with batch and piece number. That'll allow me to keep a list tracking processing date and method along with species.

Three logs, processed, stacked, and stickered with bandsaw trimmings. I'll have to find an out-of-the-way spot for these to season for the next three or four years.

I still need to debark the two outer flitches, and I'm debating debarking the edges of the other ones.

So was it worth all the effort? Yes, for a small-scale operation, I'll have some nice stock to work with, and the added satisfaction of knowing I took it from the raw felled tree.

I'll continue to process the additional pieces over time. It's clear from the minimal end drying that I don't have to rush it, although winter drying is probably much gentler than spring and summer drying.

Recommended Books
Green Woodworking: A Hands-On-ApproachThe Chairmaker's Workshop: Handcrafting Windsor and Post-and-Rung ChairsThe Woodwright's Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge