Saturday, November 23, 2013

GNHW Al Breed Townsend Pembroke Table


Al shows how the hinge works. The primary apron piece is temporarily clamped to the secondary apron.

How much does my wife love me? A lot! This past Friday was my 30th wedding anniversary. Where did we spend our romantic weekend? In Kennebunkport, ME, so I could be close to Al Breed's shop Saturday morning for the second of his presentations to the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers Period Furniture Group on building the Townsend Pembroke table. Thank you, dear!

This is the third project in Al's ongoing series for the Guild. I've been videotaping these meetings for the production of a DVD. I'm currently in the process of editing the first project.

For this meeting, Al concentrated on the drawer front in the short apron and the wooden hinge for the drop leaf support. He cut the drawer front directly from the apron so it makes a perfect grain match. Then he cleaned up the cut and trimmed it so he could install beading.

The drop leaf support is formed from the main long apron, backed up by a secondary apron. He had one already made up and formed another one to show the process. This requires removing waste from the inside corner for clearance when the support is swung out, rounding over the barrels, then sawing and chiseling the knuckles.


Paring down to the line in the drawer cutout of the short apron.


Drawing a piece of bead stock through a hollow filed into the edge of a scraper. Like a scratch stock, this shapes the thin bead edge uniformly.


Chiseling the barrel of the hinge round.


After sawing out the knuckles of the barrel, chiseling them smooth.


Chopping out the waste to provide clearance for the opposing knuckle.

The video below is a rough edit of excerpts from the presentation. You can see the cameraman is an amateur. Some of the camera work is a little jerky, I need to pay better attention to the horizon, and the autofocus occasionally thought the background was much more interesting. Getting two cameras to agree on white balance is like getting Democrats and Republicans to agree on healthcare, assuming you can even find where they've hidden the setting in the camera menus.

But make no mistake, the person being recorded is a professional, possessing fantastic skills. Al has been phenomenally generous sharing this information with us and allowing us to capture it for posterity.

The rest of this post is about the video setup and process.


Rough edit of excerpts from the meeting.

Video Setup At Phil Lowe's

Michael Brown, who had originally organized these meetings, had been at Phil Lowe's SAPFM presentation last month on building a Seymour night stand. I spent that meeting running Phil's video camera. He had it hooked up to a video projector, with a cloth draped behind him for a screen.

I was able to zoom in on Phil's bench work and separately in the machine room, giving the attendees a close view of what he was doing. That's especially helpful when you realize most of the people are sitting with eye level just barely clearing the bench, so it's hard for them to see the details of the tools in action even if they're close.

Michael liked that so much he asked if I could upgrade my setup and do the same at Al's, using the Guild's video projector. I was happy to oblige. My intent has always been to be as unobtrusive as possible to avoid interfering with the presentation, but if he was willing to allow me to be a little more intrusive, I could get a much better view to show everybody.

New Setup At Al's

My previous setup was a single hand-held camera. Standing for 3 hours on a step stool holding the camera up got pretty tiring, making it hard to hold perfectly still on zoomed closeups. So for this meeting I added a second camera and mounted both on tripods.

The first camera I left running mostly unattended, set at standing eye height for a medium shot. This is the bench-and-body shot, framed to get Al's upper body and whole workbench. This shows his stance, body position, and how he holds the tool, but is too far and low to see what the tool is doing.

The second camera was on a taller tripod with a manual joystick head, at eye level when I was standing on my step stool. I operated this one directly, zooming in tight and tracking the action. The closeup and higher angle down on the bench allowed me to get very detailed shots of the tool and workpiece. I could zoom in right on the chisel taking a shaving, or back off to include the whole piece.

I connected the closeup camera to the projector via HDMI cable and we stood an ancient 4' projection screen on a side bench. People could watch Al directly, getting the same view I was capturing on the first camera, or look over at the screen for an HD closeup.

Our first attempt at a screen was a sheet hung from the ceiling, but too much light came through it even after partially papering over the windows behind. We ended up with the projector precariously balanced on a dresser carcase in front of the audience.

The results were excellent. People were able to watch in great detail on the closeup screen. Michael noted that people stayed in their seats much more rather than getting up to see.

For audio recording, I had Al wear a wireless microphone and connected the receiver to the closeup camera. The first camera recorded audio on its built-in mic. I did record a little radio interference during the presentation, but overall the sound on the second camera is much better than on the first.

Video Editing

I do all my video editing with iMovie on my Mac. Combining video from two sources is a bit tricky, because I want to have frame-accurate splices. Showing the audio track helps. I can see where Al paused speaking in one camera view, and use that as the synchronization point to match up the other camera view. Then I can slide the exact position back and forth a frame at a time to get continuous visual activity, for example as he moves his hand in one view, continue that motion in the other view.

It's tedious and time-consuming, but I'm getting more efficient at it. It's very much like the coarse, medium, and fine steps of woodworking. Coarse: drag-and-drop to cut and stitch clips together from the two cameras; medium: use the Clip Trimmer to trim them to within a few frames; fine: use the Precision Editor to trim them to exact frame.

I like my videos to be dynamic. I hate static scenes of a talking head that go on for 5 minutes without showing any activity, or shots of a bench with nothing happening while someone talks in the background. They're just hard to watch. I get bored and my attention wanders. I prefer to get that kind of information in writing, where I can read it quickly. Video needs to be visually engaging. So I try to digest things down to the interesting essentials.

Improvements For Next Meeting

For the next meeting, we'll tweak the setup a bit. We'll have a larger projection screen, and I'm building a simple cantilever shelf for the projector that will clamp around one of the support posts in the room, getting it up out of everyone's way.

My parents are getting me a second receiver for my birthday, so both cameras will be able to record the wireless mic. I've exchanged the joystick tripod head for a pistol grip to try to get smoother motion. I learned how to get to the white balance adjustment on both cameras.

I'll move the cameras apart so they have about 45 degrees separation. I also made 2' leg extensions for the tall tripod, elevating the camera to about 8'. Catching the work from different side angles and steeper down onto the bench will provide a better view.

Tripod Extensions

The tripod extensions are simply 1" O.D. aluminum tubing from the hardware store, which was just slightly larger than the tripod leg tubes. I turned oak couplers on the lathe from billets that I had riven out several years ago, so I know the grain is straight and strong.

The tripod legs have channels extruded down the length of each side, so I rasped flats on two sides of the couplers and drove them in with a hammer. The channel extrusion makes a nice tight friction fit. The fit of the extensions is snug but loose enough to pull them off easily. I swaged down the ends of the extensions with a ball peen hammer and drove the molded plastic feet from the tripod onto them.


The couplers and two aluminum tubes fitted in place. You can see the channel in the upper leg, part of the alignment for the locking mechanism.

I can leave the couplers permanently installed. Without the extension tubes, they act as feet for the original tripod tubes.

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