Tool of the Week – Router Plane

What could you possibly need a router plane for?  That’s what I thought before this week.  You use this tool by setting the cutter height at the depth of the groove you are trying to flatten out, then you run it back and forth till it smoothes everything out.  Sounds simple? That’s cause this tool is incredibly simple.  I used it a ton this week on the mortise and tenon joints in my side table.  Fitting the tenons into the mortises needs precision down to the 1000th of an inch, and this little plane made my life much easier.  As far as planes go it’s pretty cheap at under $60 each.  Apparently the blade is tricky to sharpen, luckily that wasn’t for me to do…

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Tool of the Week

This week’s tool is another simple one.  It’s a small pocket-sized square from Veritas (Lee Valley Tools).  My teacher has one of these in his apron pocket at all times as they are incredibly useful for checking the thickness of boards as you are preparing them, and for adjusting many of the machines.  After an entire day of me constantly asking to borrow his, I bought my own.  I keep it on me at all times as I am constantly using it, a must have tool in my books!

Rosewood Studio, Week 2 – Mastering Machines

Last week was all about hand tools, mainly hand planes and saws, and boy are my arms sore.  This week we are on to the machinery, and over the week we worked with the band saw, table saw, drill press, thickness planer, jointer, mitre saw, horizontal mortiser, as well as various hand held power tools.

The week was broken up into how to use the tools properly and safely, and how to maintain them.  The maintenance part was particularly interesting for me as I have many tools that have never been properly setup, leaving them functioning sub par and even being dangerous in some cases.  We took apart each machine and made sure they were all perfectly aligned (down to the 1000th of an inch), replaced blades, sharpened others.  I really wish I could have video’d the entire week as it’s hard to remember everything we did.  Because it’s such a hands on experience, it’s hard to take notes when you’re in the middle of tearing a machine apart!

Biggest revelation this week was regarding band saw drift.  In short, it’s a total myth!  Most bandsaws have adjustable tables, and when the saw doesn’t cut straight, it’s because the table needs to be adjusted square to the blade, and not the fence to the blade as most fence companies would have you believe.

My only regret is that I hadn’t waited to buy some of my bigger machines until after taking this course as I now feel much better prepared to know what machine to buy (how big, how powerful), as well as accurately being able to tell if a used machine is worth buying.

As for a project this week, we made some “Krenov Inspired” saw horses (seen above supporting some pieces of Mahogany).  That is to say saw horses so beautiful, they’d put most of the furniture in my house to shame… Who am I kidding, ALL of the furniture in my house to shame.  The horses are made from maple, and use bridle joints, mortise and tenon joints, and wedged mortise and tenon joints.  Although the week was all about machines, I did have to hand plane the mill marks off the saw horses, and they were finished with several coats of shellac – not the most durable finish, but more used in order to practice for later projects.

I’ll be spending the weekend tuning up my old machines as best I can.  I bought a dial gauge on the way home and plan on squaring up my table saw fence (assuming the table is already square…).

Blurb – Black and White Text Book quality review

I’ve made several books before, but I’ve always been tempted by Blurb’s “Black and White Text” books.  They come in both Trade (6×9″) and Pocket (5×8″), and are significantly cheaper than their other offerings.  You still get a full colour cover, however the inside pages are “cream” and while called “Text only” books, Blurb advises that:

While perfect for text, the textured, low-contrast paper also gives black and white photos and drawings a decidedly edgy and lo-fi feel. 

I’d been reluctant to try as I couldn’t find a single review on the web about printing pictures in this type of book.  So I thought I’d give a quick summary of how it turned out and a few sample pictures side by side with the originals to see how it looks.

Sorry about the thumb, had to hold the book somehow!  Anyways, as you can see, the paper is definitely cream colour, which affects the whites.  Also, the blacks are not that “deep” compared to the original (a scanned black and white negative).  That being said, it still looks fine, not sure if I find it edgy, but lo-fi perhaps.  The type of picture above (contrasty, lots of light and dark but not so much midtones) seems to work best with this format.  It isn’t as good as the original but it’s not bad and not a lot is lost due to the printing.

 

The above picture shows where this format doesn’t work.  The picture has very small differences in shades of dark grey along the fence line.  In the original you can see these differences clearly, in the book however, most of the detail is gone, in fact the one pedestrian is even hard to see.  While this is disappointing, now that I know, I will refrain from using this type of picture.

Finally, this picture shows the quality of the printing up close.  The picture was printed 3.5×3.5″ so it has been blown up significantly.  As you can see, the printing really looks a lot like newsprint.  Good quality newsprint, but newsprint nonetheless.  Again I’m not being critical of this, just pointing out what you can expect from this type of book as examples are hard to find on the web.

Overall I’ve been quite happy with the book.  You can’t beat the price at under $10 for a 150 page 5×8″ book.  So long as you know what types of pictures to include or not to include, you can have an excellent book for a rock bottom price.

If you’re in need of a 5×8″ calendar (day planner) with pictures of Paris, or if you just want to check out the print quality for yourself, click here to see my book (or buy it if you like!).

Anatomy of a Chair

Black Forest Wood Company offers many wood working classes and I’ve always been interested in taking one or two of them.  Unfortunately my previous line of work had me away at night and on weekends, which ruled out just about every class they have ever offered.  The class that interested me the most was “Anatomy of a Chair” taught by Doug Haslam.  Doug is a local furniture designer and maker and has been teaching this class for several years.

 

The class is limited to 8 students so you get lots of one on one time with Doug.  He has a great wealth of knowledge and what I really liked about the class was that he would give instruction, and then let you go and figure it out for awhile.  He was always around for questions and you really got the most out of the class by asking as many as possible.

 

The weekend was spent learning the various geometries of chairs, then designing and finally building a prototype chair out of poplar using screws to hold it together.  You were free to do whatever you liked, however the chair was meant to be of the kitchen/dining variety.  At the end of the second day we were taught about mortise and tenon joints and shown how to make one.  My only criticism was that we didn’t actually get to practice this.

 

I was quite happy with my chair and how it turned out.  It’s not necessarily the style of chair I would make for myself, I chose the design in order to best learn the various techniques needed to build it.  It’s incredibly comfortable, and while I never meant for it to be used in my house, it is currently attached to my daughters booster seat high chair as it’s far more stable than our crappy Ikea chairs.  I highly recommend the course, it’s well worth the money and you don’t even require a whole lot of woodworking skills as Doug can teach you as you go (a couple of guys in the class had only ever used hand tools but were quickly brought up to speed on the bandsaw, jointer, table saw, and drill press).

 

Mobi Boom – Modern French Furniture

Yes, this was the actual exhibit poster, I kid you not…  I love furniture design, it’s something I’d like to do one day, so when I saw an advertisement for Mobi Boom, French Furniture Design from 1945-1975, I could not turn it down.  The exhibit was at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, which is right beside the Louvre.  Personally, I’d rather go to this museum than the Louvre any day.

After the second world war, there were major reconstruction projects across the entire country, and not only did they need new houses, but new furniture.  This caused a huge boom in French furniture design and the founding of many great names (Knoll and Roche Bobois to name a few…)

The exhibit focussed on the great array of furniture that was produced and some of the innovative techniques that were used (plywood moulding, foam injection, etc.)  The displays were truly terrific, although somewhat disappointing in that you couldn’t sit on any of the items…

The exhibit continues till January 2nd, 2011, highly recommended, and afterwards, head up to the 7th floor for the permanent exhibits with more furniture design.

 

Sweat Shop – Paris

Stumbled upon the “Sweat Shop” the other day in Paris. It’s a store that allows you to use sewing machines for 6 euros/hour.  They also have big tables for cutting, a back lounge area with coffee and pastries, and they even hold classes to teach people how to sew.

 

It was a super cool place, the staff were very friendly and helpful too.  What did we make? Well you’ll have to read on tomorrow…