Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Palm Tree Stump in Barcelona

    As a wood guy I am always interested in wood related things. Also it is interesting to see how the local conditions effect the choice of building materials.  Spain was hot and dry, the view from the hills surrounding Barcelona showed no ground water, not a river or a creek or a pond any where. 

Barcelona in the distance
   It is not a surprise then that brick and stone were the preferred building materials.  And in many places where we would have used wood, wrought iron and other forms of metal work prevailed.

door at the Gaudi basilica
  Over the last couple of years Eva and I have taken southern vacations where I have seen palm trees. Naturally I have wondered about the wood available from a palm. ( don't snicker you worldly wise ones.  I am a simple man from small town northern Ontario, at heart)

   While in Barcelona we were walking through a local park where we saw this stump. (pop can to show scale).  This was big palm tree and when it was cut down it left a stump that is similar to a tree stump except the fiber in it is much less densely packed.  The palm looks more like a giant weed stem and not like a tree at all.  It does explain why there are is no palm lumber, though one does see pole and beam construction using palm logs. 


Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Wood?

   The other evening I was at a small social gathering and while making small talk mentioned that I have a woodworking shop in my basement and that playing there is my favourite pastime.  "Oh, Why wood ?" was the question.

    "cause I like it", is the short answer, the long answer is somewhat more complicated.  I began to think, why do I like it.  There are thousands of hobbies available to us now days.  Having been relatively thrifty and very lucky with money cost was not really a deciding factor in my decision.  I don't suppose that I could have taken up diamond cutting as a hobby but, wood work, medal work, painting,  spinning, weaving, basket making, tailoring, all would have been possible and all are cool and worthy things.

   Partly why, is that my grandfather had a shop and I played in it as a little kid and before Ikea and other prefab furniture stores were launched,  bookcases were mostly home made and I've always needed book cases. ( my folks have an early effort of mine in their basement still. In a darker corner I note)

   But I really think that my shop and wood and the love of it goes deeper than just making a few practical things, though I still do many practical wood projects.  Wood is beautiful, it has character and texture and will allow you to dress it up with paint or stain or shellac or varnish or lineseed oil, or, or, or, your imagination is the only limit.  Wood is old and our relationship with wood maybe eternal.  Culturally we have imagined the wood of the True Cross, or the Ark of the Covenant, even of Noah's ark.  Big broad beams in the ceiling mean comfort and stability and security.  Weathered barn boards are like looking into wise old wrinkled faces.  Think also of wooden boats, there is a shape, an organic line to them that speaks to something primal and basic. 

    Often there is a new wonder material that tries to replace wood, plastic is lighter and doesn't leak as readily but it has no soul.  Fiber glass boats, ....just don't work for me. (I know they are less work etc etc. but they all look like they are made by the Tupperware Co.)  Stone is good but again mostly without character, unless you spend big big bucks and get into marble and granite. 

     With wood, the cheapest old hunk of spruce stud lumber can be filled with grain and interest.  Maybe it is that wood is the material of the working man, the material that we build civilization from that makes it something to which I and we can connect.

    The following photo helps show why wood.  The rocking chair my two year old grandson is sitting in while listening to the story is 75 years old.  It is my Mother's rocking chair.  She got it when she was two.  She and her three brothers sat in it, then years worth of friends and cousins, pets and teddy bears sat in it.  Then my brother and I sat in it, and years worth of friends  and  cousins, pets and teddy bears sat in it.  Now my grandson and his pets and teddy bears and soon his brother or sister (they won't tell us) will sit in it.  There is no reason to imagine that when Kieran is 75 that his great grand children won't be sitting in it with there cousins and friends, pets and teddy bears.  There is nothing else I can imagine can be used and last as long or as well.  That's "why wood"

Friday, June 24, 2011

Making Trim

     A couple of years ago I bought 1500 running feet of 2 7/8in x 1/2in x 14 ft. poplar from a local lumber yard.  The story was that the mill had run the stock and it was supposed to be 3 inch and they didn't want to store the wood until something smaller was ordered.  What ever the story I bought the wood at a very good price and survived the stare of disbelief when it arrived and occupied a big section of the family garage.

  It seemed at the time as though it would be a life time supply of poplar.   When I finish this latest project, trimming the recently completed family room, I expect it will be nearly all gone.

  Making trim is dead easy and fairly dull work, if you have the tools.  Lets look at the process in this situation.

  1. I have to cut the 14 foot lengths down to 5 to 8 foot lengths so that I can work safely and comfortably in my small shop area.  Anyway, I will have to put it up myself and 8 feet is a manageable length.

2. After I cut the poplar to length I run it across the router table to create my profile.

3. Then I run it through the table saw to cut the secondary piece that I glue/nail to the wide section to get a profile with a little bit of a shoulder.  I need a little more width to cover some of the irregularities in the recycled wood paneling that is going on the family room walls.

4. glue, nail, wait to dry and stain or paint depending on where in the room it goes.

   None of those steps is really challenging as long as you have the right tools.  I talked about the hold fasts being made by the blacksmith, Anthony Moore, in a previous blog entry.  Same thing, It is was dead easy for him to make the hold fast, all it took was a forge, mighty hammer,  a bending bench and 10 years experience and practice.

the profile features beveled edges instead of rounded edges.

    I stained the trim dark walnut and put it up against light pecan paneling and it looks pretty good.  A  couple more days of dedication and cutting of mitre corners and on to the next project.
   I'll show a photo or two next week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tom Fidgen - Made by Hand

     If you read this blog on a regular basis you know that I have no trouble admiring the work of other wood workers.  My well known wood working heroes are the famous and classic, Roys and Norms of the world.  I also admire the work of Steve at woodworking for mere mortals and Kari at the Village Carpenter.  Alas they are all imported heroes, men and women of talent and skill worthy of admiration but....imported none the less.
   For Christmas I received a book by a Canadian woodworker who I have grown to admire,  but being Canadian he is too modest to be a hero. "Made by Hand" by Tom Fidgen was very highly reviewed and I had been reading site for several months so I asked Santa to drop off a copy on his way by to the houses of the good girls and boys. (Santa and I have been doing business annually for so long he obliged me for old time's sake)  Tom's book is personal, interesting, informative and founded on common sense wisdom and experience.  The projects are designed to develop the wood workers skills while making useful and beautiful things.  As I read the book I felt that Tom was providing me with guidance and suggestions, yet allowing me to find my own way with a project and accepting that there is often more than one way to skin a (woodworking) cat.   
    My goal is to build the tool box and the wall cabinet in his book before Christmas 2011.  We will see if I can achieve that goal.

    If you go to Tom's site  
    you can see the projects from "Made by Hand" made by Tom and other people that have read and been inspired by "Made by Hand".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hand Forged Hold Fasts -MADE IN CANADA

  Yesterday I rode my Honda Silverwing from the noise and traffic of the city to the green and rolling hills of farm country about 90 minutes north.  The ride was fabulous, I think I enjoy riding my Maxi-Scooter as much as I like working in my shop. (maybe more on a sun shiny summer day). I was headed for Holstein Ontario to talk business with Mr. Anthony Moore, blacksmith. I had met Mr. Moore several years ago at a wood show and had been immediately impressed with his work and ideas.
fine tools, highly regarded from Gamercy tools

    When I went looking for forged bench hold fasts I discovered there are none for sale, made in Canada. Buying tools from the United States can sometimes be very costly, smaller suppliers do not do enough cross border business to have favourable shipping and handling rates. So while our dollar is strong the shipping charges preclude doing business by making the total bill not cost effective.
    So, being stubborn by nature I did some research on hold fasts and it was clear would need to find a "real" blacksmith (not a farrier) to make me hold fasts.  Enter Mr. Anthony Moore.
    The visit to his forge was enlightening.  Anthony does very fine artistic iron work but also makes small useful objects, e.g. hinges, railings, hold fasts etc.  The time involved in actually making the hold fast, once the round stock is fully heated is not long, a few minutes.  we are paying for the years of experience and tools, not the few minutes that this task requires. As woodworkers we know that experience and the proper tools do not fall from the sky.  For example the bending bench that Anthony worked on was way cool.  I have never seen anything like that before and didn't really know such a thing existed. With that bench the job is straight forward, without it?!?  While I love wood, it was a joy to watch a skilled craftsman work, I almost wanted to be a black smith instead of a woodworker.

     The hold fast is 5/8 round stock and works like a charm.  A couple of hits with the mallet it sets firm and a couple of more hits on the shaft and it comes loose.  I now have to drill 5/8 dog holes in my bench and put a skirt along one side for edge planning. 
   Often the hold fasts are made from 3/4 stock.  3/4 stock was too heavy, ugly and unnecessary so after making a couple of prototypes we went with 5/8in round mild steel.  It means that I need to drill a couple of 5/8 holes and I expect that I will plug most of the 3/4 dog holes that have sprouted on my bench top over the years since I won't use the related tools any more.
    Look to this blog and to see if an accommodation can be made and Canadian Made hold fasts come to the retail market.