Saturday, May 5, 2018

SketchUp Success for Woodworkers -- Woodworking Tip #22



The 22nd woodworking tip is:  buy this book and use it to learn SketchUp!!

And yes, here I thought I was the only woodworker graduate from Columbia. Turns out I was wrong, for David Heim, one of my fellow alumni, is not only a fine fine woodworker, specifically wood turning, but also one of the country's leading experts on the use of the 3D modeling program SketchUp as applicable to furniture making, cabinetry and all the other lovely objects made from wood. SketchUp is a complete drawing program, useful not just to woodworkers, but to interior designers, architects, landscapers, city planners, etc. What David Heim has done in his excellent book SketchUp Success for Woodworkers recently published by Spring House Press is extracted and tuned the aspects of the program which enable woodworkers to produce attractive, realistic 3D models of their ideas, designs and projects.  (At this point I have finally stopped my word processing program's constant urge to turn SketchUp into ketchup.)

If you stop reading here, my advice to you woodworkers is get David's book and learn SketchUp! While you're at it also visit his online shop at Etsy:  www.etsy.com/shop/DavidHeim  to see some of his beautiful turnings.  You can also buy his book through his Etsy shop.

So how does design happen? Starting to learn SketchUp got me reflecting about the evolution of the design tools I've utilized throughout my woodworking career. Now please don't ask why I still have this, but it all begins here:


Back in the day, while the girls were sewing and muffining in Home EC class, the boys were combating Sputnik by taking Mechanical Drawing. I don't think this was an elective either; it was a manly skill.  The main object of the course was converting some fanciful 3D object, often resembling the parapet of a Medieval castle, into front, top and side views. A lot of your grade depended on placing a dotted line where superman's Xray vision would have detected a change in form on the opposite side.

Years later when I took up professional woodworking, home computers, let alone drawing software, had not yet been invented, and thus dredging up this old junior high school skill proved most useful. At this point we call it "drafting."  I found myself even building drafting tables for myself and customers as well as gathering a nice collection of those green plastic Staedtler templates.  These templates helped me learn such important things as curves are French.  Still the plans did not appear all that different from those in 8th grade:


Continuing on: thanks to the urging of our son Josh we were one of the first families on the block to own a computer, a handmade XT. Fast forward years later Josh has opened his bicycle trailer and accessory business BikeShopHub and required a CAD-CAM program to operate a ShopBot CNC tool in the manufacture of his novel bicycle travel case the Cello. The Cello amazingly converted a BOB one-wheeled bicycle trailer into a travel luggage box for not only itself but also the bike that pulled it! The chosen program was bobCAD-CAM (ironic, but no relationship to the trailer company), and thus thanks to my son I myself moved to the next stage in design: computer aided drafting using BobCAD-CAM. Without question the greatest benefit of CAD was what I call “dimensional integrity,” no more struggling with finest line on a triangle scale to extract a particular dimension or carefully adding up a series of dimensions to verify sums. Any part of a plan could be measured, and the numbers were precise, perfect, always added up!









So now I have reached the latest stage in the evolution of my design career: starting to learn SketchUp using David Heim's excellent book SketchUp Success for Woodworkers. My first recommendation and his too is to pass over the online program and download SketchUp Make 2017 (still available free as of this posting). Then with program running follow David's clear step-by-step instructions: from choosing a template to setting up your first file to learning the basic tools to creating your first board. He is easy to follow. The centerpiece of the book, his four rules for success, makes enormous sense to anyone who has ever encountered a table saw and attests to his major investment in both mastering and adapting SketchUp for fine woodworkers. What I particularly like about David's approach is that he walks you so very carefully through the SketchUp learning curve. I would not expect to become adept overnight, but you could not have a better guide.

Perhaps only second to the joy of creating, for a custom fine woodworker, is the joy of working directly with your clients, getting to know them and their vision of the environment they desire to inhabit. Yet with few exceptions the difficulty has always been offering a clear picture of what exactly they were commissioning. Shop drawing and blueprints are generally insufficient in this regard. Once I even had to build a piece completely over again because I could not see the “picture in the head.”

I only wish I had had a tool like SketchUp throughout my career. I could have then offered to clients a fully 3-dimensional model, built in the chosen woods and with the right stain color, something they could “walk” around. In the later chapters of his book David explains how you can import any wood grain or texture to your model or even render it realistically. Clients are always finding photographs of some piece or environment they like, and you will even learn how to initiate your design using one of these. Both client and creator benefit. You will be able to push, pull, stretch, shrink, reshape, add components, subtract components until the picture in your own head is achieved.

Afterword: SketchUp and computer assisted manufacturing (CAM)







Though in most cases I did not use the CAM side of bobCAD-CAM, occasionally it came in very handy especially when both precision and duplication were required such as cutting the triangular solid oak countertops that formed this 15-sided customer service center. The screen shot of the bobCAD-CAM file used to cut these on ShopBot is pictured above along with the finished product. SketchUp Success for Woodworkers does not cover using SketchUp files (.skp) to operate CNC machinery, but a quick look on the web indicates that conversion to CNC files is possible. I am no expert on drawing programs, but I do know a good guidebook when I see one. David Heim's book is the first place to go if you want this powerful tool in your tool bag...happy sketching!

I would be remiss not to mention that Flying Circus Studios is also on Etsy.



Monday, February 26, 2018

Double-Sided Sandpaper -- Woodworking Tip #21


I'd say at this point in my woodworking career I've folded 17,635 pieces of sandpaper for the purpose of hand-sanding. By hand-sanding I mean just that, nothing more than hand and sandpaper. Technically, of course, using a sanding block is hand-sanding, but so often more precision is required for such tasks as smoothing a joint, removing a blemish or scratch, especially smoothing curves or contours, etc. Nothing like fingers and a little piece of folded sandpaper does the trick. Doubling the sandpaper by folding it in half seems natural and provides better purchase. Years ago I thought wouldn't hand-sanding be easier if the two smooth sides were not always slipping and sliding about? This could be accomplished merely by gluing the fold together. As is often the case with our own best interests this fine approach to sanding was defiantly deferred. Until last week. I finally took the typical quarter sheet strip of sandpaper (2.75”x 9”) used on a standard sanding block, cut it in half, creased the pieces in two, sprayed the backsides with light duty adhesive and then folded the tacky surfaces together.  Voilà!  Using three sanding block strips I made a half dozen of these all at once.


The grip provided by the well-attached double surface allows use of every bit of the sandpaper right to the edges and corners. Five of these double-sided sandpapers proved sufficient to rough sand very effectively 10 of my wooden teaspoons. Even the hardest part, sanding the bowl of the spoon, went quite smoothly. While this specialty type of sandpaper is produced commercially, it is not commonly available. Gluing your own is quick, easy, inexpensive and right out of your own stock of sandpaper. In this case I am using Norton ProSand 180 grit, one of my own favorites. My regret is not doing this with piece #1 vs #17635. Try it yourself; you will be pleasantly pleased!



Sunday, December 17, 2017

Southwest Christmas Tree 2018




The earth has spun around the sun another year, carrying us all reliably through the winter solstice place on its orbit, caring not a jot about the tumult of the inhabitants on its surface:   the holidays arrive. We have lived another year, such a good thing, certainly another year wiser and why not happier too, yes, let it be. For the fourth year our Southwest Christmas Tree has traveled its short orbit from Arizona room to living room, and once again is festooned with many handmade ornaments, some of which are displayed in the Southwest Christmas Tree from 2015. Special this year is the lovely needlepoint ornament made by my lovely wife and pictured close up here:


Another ornament made of Baltic birch and using a stock scroll saw pattern was being considered as an item for our Etsy shop, but never made it into production...perhaps another year, angel with bugle:


Happy Holidays to all, and as my fellow Columbian said it, "to all a good night!"

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ultralight Coffee Table



If we reckon the coffee table the truck and the TV tray table the car, then the ultralight coffee table must be the crossover. Light enough to pick up with one hand but just large enough for a nice spread of hors d'oeuvres, this small table was designed to accompany my side tables called Three Easy Pieces. Just five pieces of wood, the coffee table is assembled in the same manner as the side tables with the black walnut legs embedded into mortises routed slightly more than halfway into the underside of the top. The tripod design make these side tables just precarious enough to be interesting and keep one alert.




The tops of the side tables are straight grain old-growth California redwood salvaged from architectural shelving in the home of an early Northern Arizona ranching family, a gift from them to me. The top of the coffee table, however, is actually old pine salvaged from a kitchen door jamb in my son's home by the Arizona Inn in Tucson. The jamb was cut into thirds, glued up and then stained to match the redwood using Mohawk Wiping Stains, one of my favorites. All the many nail holes both in the redwood and pine were filled carefully to make them mostly disappear. Finish for all four pieces is multiple coats of satin Waterlox, which provides an even wine-resistant coating.



Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons:  FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Meyers Collaboration VIII - Framed Needlepoint


Marriage is often described as compromise, but why not collaboration? Our husband and wife collaborations of needlepoint and woodworking allow us to labor quite easily together without getting into one an other's hair. In this eighth collaboration it was necessary to turn the typical flat 2” cherry molding sideways in order to keep the overall frame size down due to location space constraints. In order to add interest to the perimeter two 1/4” square black walnut strips were embedded into the cherry. If any future refinisher wants to sand down this frame they will certainly never go through such so-to-speak veneer:



We are currently using a somewhat unconventional method of matting needlepoint. Our first collaboration, however, was mounted in the typical fashion of stretching the needlepoint canvas over a masonite board with heavy thread. Frankly we found this very difficult and required extreme care not to distort the canvas. Since then we have developed this cheating method which is much easier:

  1. A sheet of thin cotton batting is attached to a piece of mat board, the same dimensions as the exterior of the cut mat board, using spray adhesive.
  2. The canvas is then “stretched” flat over the cotton batting using one's palms. Interestingly the cotton acts as a type of weak Velcro and adheres to the canvas keeping it in position. Also the white color is an excellent background for visible holes in the canvas.  Furthermore the thickness of the batting (about 1/8") prevents knots behind the canvas from telegraphing to the front.
  3. Lastly a couple of continuous strips of double-stick tape are attached to all sides of the back of the cut mat which is then placed carefully in position, centering the art piece exactly in the cut hole.

In none of our pieces using this method has the needlepoint slipped out of place or sagged. No promises, though, as to how long this will last.  Stretching with thread is still probably better.

I continue to be impressed by the enormous number of hours stitching a piece such as this still life demands. All things considered the extra detail inlaying black walnut into the frame may have raised the proportion of my work for one of these collaborations from the usual 2% to maybe 3%.


Notes: As usual the mat was expertly cut at Sarnoff Art Supplies & Framing in Tucson.  The glass was removed for the purpose of photography without reflections.  The frame is finished with multiple coats of  Waterlox Sealer Finish.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:  FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com 


Sunday, June 11, 2017

21 Indelible Comments


They are like tunes stuck in your head but, instead, stuck in your life. Surely dear reader, you too remember comments people have said to you that are still with you. Can you at this very moment recall any? Yet these comments were not especially poetic, not necessarily aphoristic, not notably brilliant, not always true, not, in fact, even "memorable," but nonetheless they remain indelibly. I have searched for some commonality that unites them but find none:  not speaker, place, time, circumstance, age, etc. I can say, however, with some confidence, that they number no more than thee dozen or so. By opening myself up to their remembrance they have come back to me quite easily over the course of only a week or two. If I ever come up with 21 more I'll post a further collection.

Yes, indeed, a few tool tips are included for those of you handy with your hands, which turns out to be the case with me as I did follow my college professor's advice in the very last comment:

1) Washing Hands
To really clean your hands, wash something else. (J.M.)

2) Turds
If you are impressed with the size of your turds then you're getting enough fiber. (M.K.)

3) Marking along a Template
For real accuracy don't hold the pencil upright but keep the cone against the guide. (N.L.)

4) Spray Cans
Always ignored the cleaning advice about spraying upside down, and they work just fine. (M.D.)

5) Intersections
Look first to your left on account that vehicle will hit you soonest. (J.M.)

6) Finches
Lucky to have them move in as they will sing their little hearts out for you. (K.C.)

7) Sleep
Don't worry about not sleeping...just rest. (F.A.)

8) Jail
Spend some time in the slammer...it builds character. (F.A.)

9) Cookies
Broken cookies are healthier. (O.M.)

10) Early Days of Windows
I love how you can go in first thing in the morning and open all your windows. (B.C.)

11) Mental Agility
Avoid the calculator; doing math longhand preserves mental agility. (J.A.)

12) Hammering
Ear protection, of course, for the loud tools, but try it for ordinary hammering. (T.K.)

13) Chairs
You know you're getting old when you make noises rising from your chair. (N.B.)
14) Advice from our XT Builder (1984)
Just remember the first rule of using a computer:  always back up your work. (J.H.)

15) Right Color
Kurt, you don't look good in blue. (D.G.)

16) Coffee
For the perfect cup pour coffee and cream simultaneously. (D.K.)

17) Vacation
Sights are without end; a true vacation is dolce far niente. (F.A.)

18) Olives (Eyeballs) and Children
As soon as you eat ten, you will like them. (J.M.)

19) Speaking Your Mind
Now that I am old I speak my mind, a freedom I lacked in youth. (J.A.)

20) Meditation
Awaken yourself each morning at 3:00 AM, the ideal time for meditation. (A.L.)

21) Academics
Kurt, don't go into academics, it's a nasty business. (L.T.)


Readers are offering a few of their own "indelible comments" which I include below.  As with my own I am not providing a context, leaving that to the imagination, the important thing being that these words have stuck with the person:

22)  You can always go to the bathroom if you try.   (from D.&L. D.)

23)  Because I said so!  (from D.&.L. D.)

24)  Stick to theoretical work.  (from M.N.)

25)  Gotta eat.  (from S.T.)

26)  Has it changed?  (S.H.C. debating the merit of a second visit to the Grand Canyon)


Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:  FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com





Saturday, April 8, 2017

Tapering Legs with a Miter Saw -- Woodworking Tip #20



To an open mind the woodshop is a cornucopia of novelty.  A new approach, an improved jig, a shift in methodology all provide considerable joy.  Tapering, as an example, is typically accomplished with a sliding jig on a table saw.  I would usually make a quick jig out of 3/4” plywood for the required angle...never did own one of those new-fangled adjustable tapering jigs. Given the commission, however, of making short solid maple tapered legs for a couch, the thought of pushing a small block of wood into a table saw blade set 4” high did not seem appealing. The idea occurred to me of using a miter saw to cut the tapers as shown below:



 
Rather than rotating the blade to the desired angle, cut a guide board to the correct angle.  Use the horizontal vice to hold this piece firmly. The saw blade is simply locked on a 90º cut (see above photo). The leg stock is then placed against the scrap wood angle and secured with the vertical vice pressing down upon a wooden bridge between the leg stock and another scrap piece of such a height that the bridge is roughly horizontal.  With this set up cut one of every pair of tapers for however many legs you need.

The next step is to rotate the blade toward the left the number of degrees of the taper angle.  By flipping the guide board forward to back you can use it to set the blade precisely.  Clamp the guide board back in its original position adjusting it left or right as necessary.  Place the cut side against the guide board and cut the opposite side of each pair.  Really, this is not as hard as it sounds and becomes obvious when you do the set up.

Voilà...you have a short tapered leg.  Do realize that a sharp blade on the miter saw really helps as your machine struggles to cut through some 8” or so of hardwood!

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:  FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tool Bed Polishing -- Tool Tip #18



My clearest early memory of silicon carbide sandpaper, if such is the stuff memories are made of, is in the hands of a lovely female luthier as she gently hand rubbed the newly lacquered surface of a gourd-shaped Neapolitan mandolin. She used the tiniest piece of very fine grit black paper following the round curve of the instrument's back perfectly with her fingers until the entire surface was uniform powdery white and ready for yet another coat of lacquer. Few of my furniture commissions over the years required this type of mirror finish, and most of my uses for silicon carbide sandpaper, typically 400 grit, have nothing to do with finishing wood itself. I have already written about its excellent application in sharpening chisels when glued to a plate of plate glass:


Read more about this particular use at:  Fast Sharpening

Another blog post suggests silicon carbide sandpaper in order to prevent slippage between the surface of a miter gauge and a piece of wood:  Anti-Skid Miter Gauge


Today's tip is about yet another excellent application. Use 400 grit silicon carbide sandpaper attached to a hard rubber sanding block to clean, smooth and polish machine tool beds and tables as well as other machined metal surfaces such as the sole of a handplane. The block can also remove gunk, grime, high spots and burrs from the base plates of jigsaws, circular saws, plate joiners, etc.  Expect the sandpaper to load quickly and have extra sheets on hand.

You have a machine shop in your hand. Move with the grain of the factory machining. The few first passes immediately reveal low and high spots on a tool bed, such as at the throat of a jointer where you definitely don't want any miniature ski jump. Do stop short though of trying this on the cylinder head of that old Chevy V8 engine you're rebuilding.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:  FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com



   

Friday, January 6, 2017

Glass as a Cabinet Scraper -- Woodworking Tip #19


I first encountered the use of glass as a cabinet scraper in the Chelsea studio of the Greek artist Michael Lekakis. Michael was a brilliant postwar abstract sculptor working primarily in wood, his works shown in preeminent galleries and museums on both sides of the Atlantic. The glass was a surprise to me. Its use often provided the final finish to his wood sculptures as he had an aversion to sandpaper as far as I could tell.


Scraps of glass are plentiful and easy to come by from framers, hardware stores, glass businesses, etc. I use pieces roughly the side of a 3x5 file card, big enough to put two thumbs on without having to worry about the precision placement required by texting. The glass is drawn toward one at roughly a 45º angle give or take. Few furniture makers have the skill to create that perfectly hooked burr on the edge of a metal scraper, but here 8 very sharp edges are immediately available. They make lovely curled little shavings. They do not dull easily, but once they are, toss the scraper into the recycling bin. The photo shows the glass scraper in use to trim the edge of a drawer for a good fit. If using a glass scraper on a large surface the corners will need be rounded, sandpaper works, thus preventing possible scratches.



I have used glass scrapers with great success most all of my career and am hardly the only woodworker to do so, though the practice does not seem widespread, deserving of further dissemination.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:  FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com






Saturday, December 3, 2016

Meyers Collaboration VII -- Framed Needlepoint


This is the seventh collaboration between my wife Sara Meyers and myself in which she stitches the needlepoint work, and I build the frame. As mentioned in previous posts about these pieces the use of the term collaboration is really a misnomer as 98% - 99% of the work rests in the stitching, a rather rigorous art requiring the difficult friendship of patience and concentration.  I am simply amazed by her beautiful work. The heart shape, however, provided a significant challenge to matting.  We checked at least four commercial frame shops in Tucson, and none were able to cut the inner mat precisely to the shape of the heart, though the outer mat was nicely cut, as always, by Jinou Naval at Sarnoff Custom Framing. Our friend Nathan Benson took up the challenge, and through a time-consuming and considerable sequence of image transfers and manipulations he was able to program his laser engraver to cut the inner mat very close to the perimeter of the heart. Sara then added a background continental stitch of gray thread around the silver heart perimeter to fill the small remaining gap and cover the raw canvas. Nathan was also able to add the nice touch of a subtle and delicate "signature" and date to Sara's piece:


Several combinations of speed and power proved unable to eliminate laser scorching of the paper, though 50% power did work better.  The edge of the mat was completely Cajun and brown flares radiated onto the surface.  This is not surprising considering the low ignition point of paper, Fahrenheit 451 if I recall, a number we might keep in mind.  Interestingly, about 90% of the surface scorching could be removed with a simple white eraser which did not alter at all the texture or sheen of the mat board (also obtained from Sarnoff).  When it came to removing the charred surface on the mat's cut edge 180 grit sandpaper worked very well.  The image below shows the mat board prior to removal of the scorching:


Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:  flyingcircusstudios.etsy.com




Saturday, October 1, 2016

Windsor Chair Rush Replacement

The Finished Chair



There is a certain joy and satisfaction to a well done furniture repair...the patient can walk again. My experience has been that about half of the necessity for repair derives from design flaws rather than accidents or even overuse. The most common table repair, for instance, is a cracked tabletop caused by an incorrect attachment of the top to its supporting stringers that does not allow for the seasonal expansion and contraction of the top boards. Such was the case with this Windsor chair. The rush split right behind the front rail as shown below because the makers had left this corner completely sharp when it should have been “relieved,” that is rounded over so as not to create a cutting edge:



Weaving cane I had done, a very laborious process, but I had never woven rush. So the first matter was to find the appropriate replacement material. I had read that in antique pieces such as this natural rush was the preferred material, but when I received it I realized that the chair had, indeed, been done in fiber rush, the natural rush being too coarse, too thick and variegated. I found the correct fiber rush 4/32” thick at The Basket Maker's Catalog and ordered 3 coils (250') to be safe, though only two were utilized. Before removing the old rush, however, a serious obstacle appeared: the rush passed through a secondary rail in the back of the seat which had to be removed. It was attached with both large wood screws covered by buttons as well as dowels: 



Murphy, of course, now arrived to help out. Virtually every old chair I've repaired literally falls apart with a few strikes of a deadblow hammer. The joints on this chair seemed welded together, and it took drilling, heat, and extreme tension using strap clamps to pull the chair balusters out of the hooped back in order to remove this rail. Luckily only one of them split:




The second matter was how to do it...so turning to YouTube, I found an excellent video How to Weave a Seat in a Rush Chair by Ed Hammond.  Also, since the Windsor chair has no corners I also watched  his How to Weave a Rush Frame that Has No Corners.

As recommended by Ed Hammond's video, I noted and photographed the pattern used by the makers such as the manner that shorter pieces of rush were individually started to compensate for the differing number of strands in the front and back of the chair:

Between the upper and lower courses of rush wadded brown paper had been added for extra support, and though the video recommended using small triangles of cardboard I decided to reuse the paper, wetting it well and then stuffing it between the rush layers.  This provided a nice filler especially because the frame was made of fairly thick stock.  The photo shows the placement of the paper by the original makers:

The one suggestion I would have liked to have had in retrospect is paying better attention to the line formed at the row of intersecting strands, perhaps even using a triangle to keep the alignment true.  Always fun to try a new skill and inevitably learn the numerous small details that constitute quality work.  I managed to weave just one short of the number of strands the original makers used, but still my next weaving would certainly benefit from the lessons learned.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:  FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com





Monday, August 15, 2016

Feng Shui for Sheet Goods -- Tool Tip #17



How many are the ways to store sheet goods?  Really, just two:  horizontally as they do in lumber yards and commercial shops or vertically, typically leaning against a wall, as we do in small shops.
The problem I had with this second system is access, always the sheet closest to the wall was the one you needed which required lifting it up and over all the others.  This shop organizational "tool" provided not only easy access but also mobility, allowing one to roll full sheets up to the table saw and then putting the cut list back aboard.  Pieces could be removed over the rails or alternately slid out from the end.  The whole unit stores easily as well, the swiveling casters allowing parking in very tight spots.  Here are some details:

●  Casters are solid rubber 6" diameter, two with locking levers
●  Dimensions are 2' wide x 6' long; platform structure made of 2x4's 
●  Cleats under each of the separating bars prevent sheet goods from shifting laterally
●  Easy to pull a single piece out of the rack over slick Melamine floor 
●  Height of PVC pipe separators:  15", 24", 41".

Suddenly sheet goods have their feng shui...you won't regret having this caddy.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:   FlyingCircusStudios.etsy.com



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In-Drawer Knife Block -- Large


This is the larger version of our FlyingCircusStudios.etsy.com item: "In-Drawer Knife Block -- Compact" and was a response to customer demand.  Though only a couple inches larger than the compact version it provides space for thicker handles and longer blades.  Here are the specifications:

● Dimensions are 9 1/2” long, 8” wide and 1 1/4" thick

● Holds 7 knives from 3" paring to 10" chef

● 3 longest slots are 1 1/4" apart; 3 middle slots are 1 1/8" apart; 3 shortest slots are 1" apart

● Slot length ranges from 4 1/2" to 8 3/4"

● Width of two longest slots is 1/8", i.e. knives up to that thickness will fit

● Width of remaining 5 slots is 3/32", which fits most typical kitchen knives

● Finish is primarily Danish oil

Our recommendation is to place the block over cork or resilient shelf pad to protect both the knife edge and drawer bottom. Easily lift knives out with one finger on the butt or by grasping the spine.

Eliminating the handle support block reduces height, length, shipping cost and price, but note that some handle-heavy knives might require a piece of foam, a length of which is included when you order the item, under the handle if you wish to keep them from tipping upward (note the foam in the photo above).





The creation of an Etsy shop was partly a response to my abhorrence of the waste of beautiful wood that ends up in dumpsters outside woodshops everywhere.  Most of my knife blocks are made from woodshop cutoffs that would otherwise end up in the trash.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:   FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Over Sink Light Fixture -- Cabinet Coordinated


A recent commercial kitchen remodel required a new light fixture over the kitchen sink, and in order to coordinate perfectly with the cabinetry, it was fabricated from the exact same finished wood as the cabinets themselves. This wood is readily available from the cabinet manufacturer by ordering a spacer piece 3” wide by approximately 8' long, requesting the same wood and color finish as the cabinets. Thus a perfect match is assured! The 3” wide spacer stock was fabricated into a simple 4-piece mitered frame joined with glue and biscuits. Four “L” brackets attached to the top of the frame are screwed to the ceiling. The frame surrounds two 24” long dual bulb T-5 fluorescent fixtures which are separately attached to the ceiling and connected to the electrical supply.

The trick is getting a luminescent panel, which rests on a ring of 1/4” square wood molding, into such a small opening. This was accomplished by first routing, before any mitering or assembly, a dado 3/4” wide by 1/4” deep into the inner surface of the 1x3 just slightly above the 1/4” molding. This extra clearance allows the panel to be maneuvered into place on its molding. The molding was cut from other stock and stained to match, not at all a critical match as the molding is small and not readily noticed.

The fixture is approximately 28” long to allow for clearance at either end of the fluorescent fixtures and 11” wide so as not to protrude beyond the 12” deep plane of the upper cabinets. The low 3” profile means the fixture will not block any light or view from the kitchen window. The 4 T-5 bulbs provide plenty of light for the kitchen sink area and beyond. Cabinet manufacturers would certainly sell these if they thought to make them.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:   FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Café Shims - Table Leveling



You are sitting with your lover; it's a lovely sidewalk table on Place du Tertre in Montmartre. The waiter has just brought your wine, red wine, of course. The glasses sparkle in the fading Paris sunlight. You gaze into your lover's eyes and lean forward for a little kiss. Suddenly the force of your elbow finds that one leg suspended off the plane of the other three and voilà: first the seesaw down, then the recoil up. The glass of red wine tips and spills into your lover's lap. The deft lover, however, would have surreptitiously tested the table upon arrival, slipping his (or her!) café shim under the offending leg and avoided such unpleasant surprise.



Everyone has been annoyed by a rocking restaurant table. Still you probably won't have a cafe shim with you, but if you did, you would certainly impress your companions. Andrew Knowlton wrote in the April 2016 issue of bon appétit, speaking of a Beverly Hills restaurant, “They solved the single biggest annoyance in restaurants: wobbly tables.”

The set of six is made of random hardwoods, hand-sanded and oiled, not hardware shims at all! They are 1 3/4" wide and 3” long, a little smaller than a business card, and taper from 3/16” to near zero.

A novelty perhaps, but shims are useful: leveling furniture and pendulum clocks, securing hammerheads, locking Hungarian shelves, etc. 

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:   FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Antique Chair Restoration Collaboration


The front edges of this chair looked like sheaves of wheat, stringy strands of wood separating from the leg due to innumerable collisions with the drawer pedestals of its desk. The top of the back was worn bald and blonde. The finish was generally finger-marked, faded and scratched. The cushion fabric was thread-bare and worn. In short this old desk chair looked ready for the grave.

The restoration of this chair followed the process outlined in my July 30, 2015 post Finishing Tip #5: Simple Refinishing in 3 Steps, except that after cleaning (Step 1) the damage was so bad that considerable sanding was required to smooth and recontour the legs. Because completely bare wood showed right next to wood still with color a Mohawk wiping stain (Step 2) was used to blend evenly the disparate surfaces.

The collaboration commenced at this point when I handed the chair over to the skillful hands of finisher Anthony Hernandez of J. Swiss & Co. in Tucson. Instead of the usual step 3 in my simple refinishing of using oil based products to restore sheen we elected to spray the piece with satin lacquer using professional equipment. Prior to the clear coat Anthony used some lacquer toner as discussed in step 3 to help blend the color of the sanded areas.

The collaboration continued with new upholstery on the old seat board expertly accomplished by Fabrics That Go, also in Tucson. They also supplied the fabric itself which coordinated well with the chair color as well as the pattern being perfectly centered and suggestive of the form of the back. The holes in the seat board were so worn out that epoxy was used to fill them so that the screws holding the seat board to the frame would have some purchase.

All in all a nice result of some collaboration.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:   FlyingCircusStudios.etsy.com


Friday, March 11, 2016

Shop Clean-Up: Rule of Two's -- Tool Tip #16

Geraniums are an unexpected window treatment in a garage, and I'm talking about a serious grease monkey's garage where transmissions are pulled as easily as flashdrives. Even more surprising, however, were this mechanic's tool habits. As each tool finished its job, wiped clean it was and then put back in its place, turning the tired saw “a place for every tool and every tool in its place” into a mantra.

Now and again I've thought what a nice ideal this was, and now and again I would try to follow his example though not with much success. My working behavior was more to grab tools helter skelter, dropping them on any blank spot on the workbench and often having to move a bunch as I negotiated a piece of furniture. Anyone who works with their hands knows well that any job always requires every tool you own. Maybe a few might return to their places in the course of things, but inevitably in the light of the setting sun I had a job that my mechanic friend did not: putting away a pile of tools.

So now I have a piece of advice for you that has proven a psychological advantage to make this task easier:   I call it the “rule of two's.” This will work for the gardener out in the yard. It will work for a load of clean dishes in the dishwasher. It will work for the tools of any craftsman in any media. It will work for butcher block, easel or workbench. Take your tools by two's and put them away. Somehow this pairing of items just makes the task of putting away smoother, faster, more satisfying, more “artful.” Try it once and see what I mean...seems silly, but it really works!

An index of the first 15 Tool Tips can be found at:  15 Tool Tips

 Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:   FlyingCircusStudios.etsy.com

An Exception to the Rule


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Suspended Drawer Side Table


Why not have your cake and eat it too, why not have the airy look of an open side table and yet provide enclosed storage for all those myriad items you might like next to a couch but out of sight? Such was the inspiration for the “Suspended Drawer Side Table,” which has roomy drawer storage but no apron or cabinet enclosing it. A pair of well-waxed undermount all wood drawer glides allow easy sliding but provide no apparent reason for the drawer to stay attached. The grain direction of the top ensures that contraction and expansion do not affect the fit of the drawer since little movement occurs with the grain through the seasons. Just to mix it up the grain direction is rotated on the shelf, though here movement would do little more than shift the legs in and out a tad. The L-shaped cleat screwed to the underside of the table top also acts as a stop when it contacts the back of the drawer face upon closing. A little surprise, however, is piling the drawer to its rim only to find the top object contacting that same cleat.

 
I used my nearly trademark selection of cherry and black walnut, a quite appealing color combination, and, as per usual, asymmetrical piecing. This piece finds its place in our own home where it fulfills a plus thirty-year-old promise to replace a cheap, commerical mahogany plywood side table...a blantant case of the cobbler's shoes.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:   FlyingCircusStudios.Etsy.com

Detail of slide

View of the back