Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The summer of chair making

 Chair making seems to be the benchmark by which all woodworkers are judged: if you can build sturdy, comfortable (and attractive!) chairs, you can call yourself a woodworker in its truest sense. 

Seems like I've passed that test, as I've been on a chair making tear lately. Here are some examples of the latest work coming out of my shop - a set of six walnut chairs that I call - cowboy inspired. 

The clients requested rustic elegance - live edges and knots to be included, with pegged joinery and rusty upholstery tacks. (Notice the diamond shaped pegs I used - yes, every joint was reinforced with 1/4" white oak pegs.

 I built four side chairs, and these two arm chairs. They chose a gorgeous leather from Tandy (I didn't even know they still existed!) and the upholsterer did an amazing job putting it all together. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Another Fabulous Thunderbirds Helmet Case

Since Nellis Air Force Base is located in my town, I'm often approached about making display cases for military memorabilia. Some of the more interesting projects involve  helmet cases for the Thunderbird Pilots' helmets - they have amazing artwork airbrushed onto the helmet, like the one below. 

The case below was made for a retiring officer, and it included an angled area below, where he could store his military coins. The lid of this case hinged open, for access to the helmet and coin display. 

My latest case was for another Thunderbird helmet, who is also the son of one of my students. She ordered it for him, with some custom features added in to the design.

The drawer underneath holds an extra head rest, and military coins.

 I used a few extra tool parts that I had for some custom drawer and door pulls - adding a nice little touch to the feel of the cabinet. 

These are terrific little pieces to build - full of details and touches that really let me explore woodworking to its fullest. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kitchen Island Project Details

This is an update to this post - showing the finished piece that is chronicled below.

 Here are a few pictures of the completed island. I think it's interesting to watch the progression from blueprint to completion.... enjoy! 

Wanna see how it was made? Step into my office.....

One thing is clear - I love building tables. Big bulky tables. Tables that will be around in 50 years. Sure, there are times when something delicate and refined is what people want, but - in my head - give me beefy timbers, solid pegged joints and renewable tops and I'm one happy builder. 

When this client approached me with a kitchen island design reminiscent of a weathered pier, my curiosity was piqued.  Originally - the top was to be vertical grain doug fir, but with the dimensions he wanted (60 inches square) - I was concerned about the wood movement. 

We eventually decided upon a granite top to be placed over a well reinforced baltic birch top. 

After the first couple of sketches, he decided to add a shelf underneath, to hold some storage baskets. Hence...  sketch #2.

The legs are solid laminations - three layers of 8/4 stock. 

I prefer to measure as I work, so once the legs were machined to size - I determined the length of the aprons and stretchers. 

The Festool Domino XL made connecting these components easy and very accurate. 

Sub-assemblies one night, 

and the final glue-up the next day. 

In keeping with the weathered pier theme,    

I decided the shelf below would mimic that decking.

Accurate spacing, via some plywood scraps.

We experimented with a couple of finishes, 

and ultimately decided on this two part finish made by Rubio.

And finally - the piece stained and awaiting pick up. I did a quick calculation - this piece (without the granite top) weighs about 235 pounds.  

I'll post a few finished photos once the granite is in place - based on the type of stone they're using, it should be amazing!  And heavy! This piece isn't going anywhere, once it is in its final location!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mark your calendar - we're hosting a Lie Nielsen Tool Event

You may want to grab your calendar and put a big circle around October 17 and 18th. In fact - you might want to do this with a 

Lie Nielsen, one of the most highly regarded hand tool makers in the world has chosen my school to host their upcoming Tool Event this fall. 

I could sit here, trying to describe it for hours, but the best words that I've read about it come straight from their website:

About Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events

“We started these Hand Tool Events to expose more woodworkers to the improvements in quality, environment, and enjoyment that hand tool work can offer. Over the past decade, we’ve seen their popularity explode with new and experienced woodworkers alike. Incorporating traditional tools and methods can offer even die-hard machinery users ways to bring their work to the next level. The fact that our tools don’t require earplugs or respirators just adds to the appeal.”
- Thomas Lie-Nielsen 

Each year, we visit over 40 venues across the US and Canada and set up a Lie-Nielsen shop for two days. We bring our full line of hand tools and demonstrate essential hand tool techniques for everyday woodworking useful to both professionals and amateurs. 

Events are hands-on: we encourage customers to try our tools, ask questions, and experience how woodworking with hand tools is rewarding, quiet, and surprisingly efficient.

Events take place at woodworking-related venues like woodworking shops, schools, guilds, stores, and lumberyards. Unless it is part of a larger show or festival, Hand Tool Events are free, open to the public, and do not require registration. A selection of Lie-Nielsen hand tools is available for purchase at most Events. Attendees are eligible for free shipping on orders placed at the Event (excluding Workbenches, Shavehorse, Sharpening Station, vise hardware, and the No. 51 Shoot Board Plane).

We also invite Guest Demonstrators to showcase their work at our Hand Tool Events. Our Guests often include other hand toolmakers, expert woodworkers, and woodworking organizations that share our passion for quality craftsmanship. They demonstrate, answer questions, and, like us, aim to encourage customers to do their best work.

As my shop heads into its sixth year of existence, I find myself being so thankful for loyal students who support and promote my school, as well as friends and family members who help me with the numerous tasks of running the shop. As word has leaked out about the tool event, many of you have come forward offering help...   trust me, I am going to need it! 

Beside the overwhelming task of cleaning and straightening the school, I find myself in need of people who can help with organizational skills, PR work, and event planning. If you like to be part of this event, please contact me - I look at this event as one that the Las Vegas woodworking community can embrace as a whole. 

Will you be a part of it?  Contact me and let's make this event a memorable one!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Petrified Wood Slab Coffee Table

It started with a slab of petrified wood - a gorgeous piece about three feet long, and maybe twenty inches wide. 

Amazing colors, 

and an irregular edge that was destined to give me fits. 

The owners wanted a framework built around the slab, and a contemporary curved base below.

The framework was complicated because the edges of the slab weren't perfectly perpendicular,

 so a little back cutting was necessary.  

Once the frame was built, sculpted and shaped, I tackled the base. 

I coopered the two curved ends, which essentially means cutting various angles so that the slats of wood would curve into the shape I needed. This is basically how barrels are made; it's an old method that still has practical use in today's world. 

After everything was laminated - the shaping began with a variety of grinders, sanders, and then buffers. Shaping wood this way is tedious, but necessary to remove all the deep scratches. 

Figure-8 tabletop fasteners were the most practical way to attach the top, and those need to be mortised into place, so that the top sits flush with the base. 

Time for a bit of staining and assembly. 

And with the help of a couple of wonderful friends - it all came together. 

Assembly was a bit tricky, but all that's left is a bit of grouting. I'm researching some sanded grouts that come in tubes, so that I can use a caulking gun, rather than mixing up some grout and applying it the more traditional way with a float - which might scratch the top. 

Many thanks to John and Lupe for all their help - I couldn't have done it without both of you. 

Now pass the Ben Gay....