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Building Strong, Stylish Tables in a Day

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OODWORK

A MAGAZINE FOR ALL WOODWORKERS

The Idyllic Career of Grant Vaughan

Toshio Odate's Shoes Studio Furniture at the Smithsonian Wooden Planes for Dadoes and Rabbets Fineply: A Curious Shop-Made Plywood A 17th-Century Box The Long Journey of David Upfill-Brown Handmade Handscrews School for Boatbuilders SPRING 2009 $5.99 US


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CONTENTS SPRING 2009 NUMBER 115

WOODWORK

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PHOTO BY JOHN LUCAS

The Idyllic Woodworking Life of Grant Vaughan BY TERRY MARTIN

12 6/8 Tables

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BY JERRY SPADY

40 Recreating a 17th-Century Carved Box BY PETER FOLLANSBEE

20 The Pair of Shoes

48 Studio Furniture at the Renwick

23 Gallery SAN DIEGO DESIGN IN WOOD EXHIBITION, 500 TABLES BY LARK BOOKS

28 Wooden Grooving and Rabbeting Planes BY KERRY PIERCE

BY OSCAR FITZGERALD

58 Seeing the World with David Upfill-Brown

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34 Fineply

BY JOHN SHERIDAN

BY TOSHIO ODATE

PHOTO BY DREW LANGSNER

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PHOTO BY BRUCE MILLER

PHOTO BY PETER FOLLANSBEE

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PHOTO BY KERRY PIERCE

A MAGAZINE FOR ALL WOODWORKERS

66 Shopmade Handscrews BY STEVEN BUNN

72 A High School for Boatbuilders BY DREW LANGSNER

4 5 78 80 81 82

COMMENTARY CONTRIBUTORS BACK ISSUES CLASSIFIED ADS ADVERTISERS INDEX LOOKING BACK

BY PATRICK DOWNES

ON THE COVER Grant Vaughan sculpting on his workshop porch in New South Wales, Australia.


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COMMENTARY

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ello, and welcome to a new era in the life of Woodwork magazine. I'm Tom Caspar, the current Editor of Woodwork. I'd bet many folks thought that the Woodwork they came to know and love would end with its sale by Ross Publications in the summer of 2008. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors, the rumours of Woodwork's demise have been greatly exaggerated. I intend to keep Woodwork the same as it has been: a magazine that reflects the inquiring spirit of all woodworkers. I hope that this issue, my first, will seem very familiar. I go back a long way with Woodwork. While trying to eke out a living as a custom furnituremaker, I started writing for Woodwork in 1996, under the editorship of John McDonald. I continued to contribute to Woodwork when John Lavine took the helm in 1998. The next year, I left

my cabinet shop and joined the staff of American Woodworker magazine. I'm now the Editor of both American Woodworker and Woodwork magazines. During the last ten years, John Lavine labored long and hard to create a unique identity for Woodwork. He did an amazing job. I need your help to continue this mission because Woodwork's success depends in large part on the quality of articles that you submit. If you would like to contribute, or to comment on the mix of stories in this issue, please e-mail me at the address below. In addition, you can help me chart a course for Woodwork by answering two vital questions: What would you like to see more of in the magazine? What would you like to see less of in Woodwork? Here's to a long and fruitful dialogue, Tom Caspar, Editor tcaspar@americanwoodworker.com

WOODWORK A MAGAZINE FOR ALL WOODWORKERS

SPRING 2009 www.americanwoodworker.com/woodwork EDITORIAL Editorial Director Editor Associate Editor Office Administrator

Randy Johnson Tom Caspar Tim Johnson Shelly Jacobsen

ART & DESIGN Creative Director Vern Johnson Director of Photography Jason Zentner

Category President/Publisher Advertising Director Classified Advertising Manager Vice President/Production Production Coordinator Ad Production Coordinator Systems Engineer V.P. Consumer Marketing Circulation

Carol Lasseter Brian Ziff Susan Tauster Derek W. Corson Michael J. Rueckwald Kristin N. Beaudoin Denise Donnarumma Dennis O’Brien Steve Pippin Adrienne Roma Susan Sidler Dominic M. Taormina Director E-Media Steve Singer

ADVERTISING SALES 1285 Corporate Center Drive, Suite 180, Eagan, MN 55121 Brian Ziff, bziff@americanwoodworker.com office (860) 417-2275, cell (203) 509-0125, fax (860) 417-2275 Classified Advertising Manager - Susan Tauster, stauster@americanwoodworker.com office (630) 858-1558, cell (630) 336-0916, fax (630) 858-1510 NEW TRACK MEDIA LLC Chief Executive Officer Stephen J. Kent Executive Vice President/CFO Mark F. Arnett Vice President/Publishing Director Joel P. Toner

Woodwork, ISSN 1045-3040, USPS 004-058 is published quarterly by Woodworking Media, LLC, 90 Sherman St., Cambridge, MA 02140. Periodicals postage paid at Boston, MA and additional mailing offices.Postmaster:Send change of address notice to Woodwork®, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235. Subscription rates: U.S. one-year, $19.97. Single-copy, $5.99. Canada one-year, $24.97. Single-copy $6.99 (U.S. Funds); GST #R122988611. Foreign surface one-year, $25.00 (U.S.Funds). U.S.newsstand distribution by Curtis Circulation Company,LLC,New Milford,NJ 07646.Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement Number 41525524. Canada Postmaster: Send address changes to: Woodwork, PO Box 875, STN A, Windsor, ON N9A 6P2. Send returns and address changes to Woodwork®, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 321420235. Printed in USA. © 2009 Woodworking Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Woodwork may share information about you with reputable companies in order for them to offer you products and services of interest to you.If you would rather we not share information,please write to us at:Woodwork,Customer Service Department,P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235. Please include a copy of your address label. Subscribers: If the Post Office alerts us that your magazine is undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless we receive a corrected address within one year.

Comments & Suggestions Write to us at Woodwork Magazine, 1285 Corporate Center Drive, Suite 180, Eagan, MN 55121. (952) 948-5890, fax (952) 948-5895, e-mail woodworkeditor@americanwoodworker.com

Subscriptions Woodwork Magazine Subscriber Service Dept. P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235, (866) 927-0956, www.americanwoodworker.com/woodwork Back Issues: Some are available for $6.99 each, plus shipping and handling. Order from the Reprint Center at www.americanwoodworker.com/woodwork.

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CONTRIBUTORS

TERRY MARTIN (p. 6) has been a woodturner since the mid-1980s and has been writing on turning and associated crafts since 1991. In 1995 he published “Wood Dreaming,” the only book about Australian turners. In 2008 he co-authored “New Masters of Woodturning” with Kevin Wallace.Terry travels widely as a speaker, curator and commentator on wood art.

JERRY SPADY (p. 34) comes to woodworking from a background of research in biochemistry and microbiology. He holds undergraduate degrees in zoology, chemistry, and mathematics, and a doctorate in biomedical sciences. Jerry is a lifelong woodworker and currently pursues the craft fulltime. He is a past president of the East Tennessee Woodworker’s Guild.

DAVID UPFILL-BROWN (p. 65) began his career as a sculptor in Africa. He studied furnituremaking at the Parnham School in England, ran a workshop near Canberra, Australia, taught at the Australian National University, and was the first academic director of the Australian School of Fine Furniture. David is now lead instructor at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Rockport, Maine.

JOHN SHERIDAN (p.12) is a San Francisco furnituremaker who started the Grew-Sheridan Studio with his late wife, Carolyn GrewSheridan, in 1974. John occasionally teaches summer seminars, most recently “Chairmaking,” at the Penland School in North Carolina. His work has been included in “500 Chairs” and “500 Tables.” He belongs to Veterans for Peace.

PETER FOLLANSBEE (p. 40) has practiced green woodworking since studying with John Alexander in 1978. For the past 15 years he has been the joiner at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Peter will teach a week-long class in making a carved oak box August 17-21, 2009 at the Country Workshops in Marshall, North Carolina.

STEVEN BUNN (p. 66) owns and operates a cabinet shop in Bowdoinham, Maine, where he specializes in crafting Windsor chairs. Steve has written articles for Fine Woodworking and Home Furniture magazines and has been listed in Early American Life magazine’s Directory of Traditional Craftsman. Visit Steve online at www.stevenbunn.com.

TOSHIO ODATE (p. 20) apprenticed as a woodworker in his native Japan in the mid1940s. He moved to New York in 1958 and became a sculptor and teacher.Toshio has been a leader in introducing the Japanese woodworking tradition to the West. He has written numerous articles and two books:“Japanese Woodworking Tools:Their Tradition, Spirit and Use” and “Making Shoji.“

OSCAR FITZGERALD (p. 48) earned his Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University. He retired from the Naval Historical Center to pursue his first love: the history of furniture and decorative arts. Oscar currently teaches at Marymount University and the Smithsonian Institution /Corcoran School Master’s Program. He is working on a book about contemporary box makers.

DREW LANGSNER (p. 72) is the author of numerous magazine articles and several woodworking books, including “The Chairmaker’s Workshop.” In 1978, Drew and Louise Langsner started Country Workshops, a woodworking school that focuses on traditional woodworking with hand tools.Visit www.countryworkshops.org or www.DrewLangsner.com to learn more.

KERRY PIERCE (p. 28) has been building and writing about period furniture for almost 40 years. He has written over 150 magazine articles on his three woodworking passions: the Shaker tradition, chairmaking and hand planes. Six of his eighteen books are studies of Shaker work, including “Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture” and “Making Shaker Woodenware.”

PATRICK DOWNES (p. 58) is currently a Fellow at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. A late arrival to furnituremaking, he enjoys exploring the use of text and texture in his pieces. As a writer and editor, Patrick’s work has appeared in magazines such as STORY and Experience Life.

GLENN GORDON (back cover) is a writer, sculptor, and photographer. His articles on furniture, sculpture, photography, architecture and design have appeared in such publications as American Craft, Woodwork, Architecture Minnesota, and Black & White. His article, “Functional Sculpture,” on a recent show of furniture from the Upper Midwest, appeared in Woodwork #112, August 2008.

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THE IDYLLIC WOODWORKING LIFE OF

GRANT VAUGHAN BY TERRY MARTIN

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espite the notion that the woodworking life is very romantic, full of sweet-smelling plane shavings in a peaceful workshop, for many the reality is dusty, noisy and sometimes tedious work. Yet many of us became woodworkers in pursuit of an idealized lifestyle. When I recently visited Grant Vaughan, I was impressed to see just how close he has come to the kind of life many dream of. To reach Grant’s home I travelled along back roads through peaceful green valleys in the northern border country of New South Wales, Australia. The roads became narrower and steeper as I reached Grant’s valley. Just before the turning to Grant’s house I discovered Rock Valley Post Office, the smallest in the Southern Hemisphere (1). I stopped to talk to the volunteer Postmaster, Ian, who told me the valley is populated by a mix of traditional farmers and relative newcomers who came in pursuit of an alternative lifestyle. Ian used to be a fireman in Sydney; now he grows native limes in the next valley over. I mentioned Grant’s name and Ian looked at me with increased interest. “Grant’s famous around here,” he told me.

I first became aware of Grant’s work in the late 80s when the Sydney Opera House hosted a landmark exhibition of work by members of the New South Wales Woodworkers Guild. It was the first time woodwork had been shown in that prestigious venue, and it raised the public profile of many of the exhibitors. Grant showed a bowl of carved Red Cedar (4). The piece was completely different from the turned wooden bowls that were flooding the Australian market at the time, and I remember thinking that I’d like to meet the artist. Twenty years later I finally did. Grant’s house is hidden in subtropical rainforest at the end of a long, rough driveway that meanders across green fields. I emerged into a large clearing between his workshop and the house and Grant came out onto the wide veranda of his workshop (2) to greet me. We settled in the shade with a cold drink. The valley echoed with birdsong and as the shadows lengthened, wallabies came down to eat the grass within a few yards of us (3). Grant’s life is in many ways a typically Australian story: “I was born in the country in 1954. We lived in different WO O DWO R K

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towns and I had a lot of experiences that prepared me for life here. When I finished high school I did a year of engineering at university, but I soon decided I didn’t like that. I switched to architecture and nearly finished two years, but like a lot of people at that time, I dropped out of school. In 1973 a big Aquarius Festival was held not far from here and I came up for it. Eventually I joined others who were dropping out and moving here to start a new life on the land.” Soon Grant bought 85 acres of that land. “It was pretty bare with only a few of the original forest trees left,” he said. “The land was pretty degraded. We were talking about


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global warming and things like that thirty years ago! The problem was that nobody was listening, so we got tired of talking about it. I thought it would be good to let at least this bit of land go back to forest. The neighbors thought I was nuts. Even when I planted a few trees they thought I was crazy as they’d spent their lives cutting down trees. Funny, but now it’s probably worth more as forested land than when it was cattle property.” A lot of the new arrivals didn’t know anything about living on the land, but Grant, having had some experience in the country, knew more than most. “I knew

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we couldn’t all grow lentils and survive on that. I always wanted to do something creative with my hands. Wood was the only accessible material, so I started experimenting. I bought a few tools and tried making coffee tables and cabinets. I didn’t realize that you have to allow for the expansion and contraction of the wood, so I glued the tops of my coffee tables to the frame with epoxy and of course they pulled themselves apart!” Gradually he mastered the tools, often by trial and error. “It was very frustrating, but I got help from a local craftsman who is a whiz with machinery. I picked it up really fast. It was WO O DWO R K

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simple: I asked, he showed me, and that was it.” By the early 80s Grant had started to have success selling his furniture locally, making kitchens, dining tables and chairs. He began taking pieces to big craft shows in Sydney and soon had more orders than he could cope with. Grant started incorporating carving into his furniture to make it more interesting, and around this time he found a new direction. “I was sitting on the beach one day and thinking about carving something, so I took some clay from a headland and tried making a bowl. I remember a friend saying, ‘Grant, I like


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1. Postmaster Ian proudly poses in front of the Rock Valley Post Office, the smallest in the southern hemisphere.

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2. Grant’s workshop, nestled among the trees that he has regrown on his previously denuded property. 3. “…as the shadows lengthened, wallabies came down to eat the grass within a few yards of us.” 4. Bowl (1983); Australian red cedar; 7" x 15" x 12"; collection of Forestry Commission of NSW. 5. Carved Mirror (1983); Australian red cedar; 31" x 21". 6. Senate Office Entry Display Cabinets (1988); Australian red cedar and red bean; 43" x 55" x 31-1/4"; Parliament House, Canberra. 2

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7. The display cabinets in place in Parliament House. 8. Carved Mirror (1992); Queensland maple; 39" dia.; the Prime Minister’s Residence. 9. Side Table [detail] (1987); bleached silky oak; 30" x 70" x 20". 10. Desk [detail] (1992).

your furniture, but that looks terrible!’ I’m pleased to say that the Opera House bowl that got so much publicity was the same as that first clay bowl. I think I sold it for around $500, which doesn’t seem much now, but it was quite a lot in those days. Everybody loved it, particularly because it was so different from the huge number of turned bowls that were being made at that time. I carved it all the old-fashioned way with gouges and mallet. I thought it took too much time and I would never be able to make any money that way. I had a young child and I was the only earner in the family. So, to be practical, I started doing carved mirrors (5). I took deposits for fourteen mirrors at one show alone. In the end I got sick of them.” In 1988, the Australian government was commissioning Australian artists to make furniture using indigenous woods for the new Federal Parliament House in Canberra. Grant’s solid reputation led to a commission for two document cases for the entrance to the Senate offices (6 and 7).

They had to be sealed to control the interior environment for archival material. It was heady success, but not everybody appreciated the importance of such work, as Grant explains: “The day I delivered the tables, I was standing back looking at them with one of the architects. He was just saying how great they looked when a janitor came by with a huge ring of keys. Without even looking up from his clipboard, he threw the keys onto one of the tables and scratched the top! You’ve got to get used to what will happen to furniture in public places.” Grant continued to get prestigious commissions from the government. On behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs he did a wall mural 6 meters long and 2 meters high for the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok. This led to a commission for a mirror for the Australian Prime Minister’s residence, the Lodge (8). The mirror was not used as expected. “When it was delivered we had just had a change of prime ministers. Apparently the WO O DWO R K

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11. “Obovoid Form” (2002); Australian white beech; 17" x 9"; collection of Roger Ford. 12. “Gesture of Balance #2” (2002); Australian white beech; 14-1/2" X 14-1/2". 13. Carved Form [detail] (2001). 14. “Ovoid Form” (2004); Australian white beech; 10" x 16" x 11-1/2"; National Gallery of Australia.

mirror ended up in the basement. It stayed there for the next two prime ministers’ terms and I heard nothing more about it. Recently, however, we saw an article in the newspaper about a carved mirror that had been discovered in the basement at the Lodge. Nobody seemed to know what it was, so I wrote and asked about it. I got a letter from the office of the current prime minister informing me that it is my mirror and that it is now finally hanging on the wall in the Lodge. That felt good.” Toward the end of the 1980s Grant had


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PHOTOS 1, 3, 4, 25, 26, 27 BY TERRY MARTIN. OTHER PHOTOS BY DAVID YOUNG, EXCEPT #6 & #7 BY MATT KELSO, #5 BY NICK POUTSMA, AND #2 BY PETER DERRETT.

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become so successful as a furnituremaker that he says he “could have started mechanizing and taking on employees, but I didn’t want to spend my life as a machinist pushing wood through spindle molders. On top of that we had a recession and for the first time I did shows where nothing sold.” Surviving into the 90s on sales at a few Australian galleries and commissions from clients who kept coming back over the years, he devoted much of his time and energy to maintaining a professional approach, concentrating on good photography and clear presentation, and producing owner’s manuals for the

proper care of his work. Grant exhibited at SOFA (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art Fair) Chicago from 1999 to 2005, showing more carved work than furniture: “I took a table one year, but it was mostly my carved bowls. Furniture is never so easy to sell because people worry if it will fit in their home. They want to go home and measure, but the show only runs for a few days—and I live in Australia. Bowls are easier. I used to take around eight pieces. I kept going till ’05 and always had success, but since then I’ve backed off because it is such hard work WO O DWO R K

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selling so far from home and the costs are high. I still sell through some American galleries.” He goes on to say that “I want to do it on my own terms. I don’t want to chase my tail trying to get sales, so I don’t make many pieces per year. They all sell. It seems everything I make now is already promised to somebody. Recently I started selling into China and they want more.” When you look at Grant’s entire body of work, it is possible to see how his furniture evolved into his carved bowls. Many of the legs on his furniture had delicately carved details (9) that evolved into folded, or


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15. Carved Form [detail] (2002). 16. “Continuity” (2005); Australian red cedar; 11" x 22" x 11". 17. “Split Form #2” (2006); Australian white beech; 16" x 16" x 5". 18. “Split Form #3” (2006); Australian red cedar, 131/2" x 25" x 5-1/2"; Collection of Raymond Wong. 19. Enfolded Form (2004); Australian rosewood, 24-1/2" x 8"; Madhavi – Hong Kong.

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22. Crescent Form (2005); Australian rosewood; 13" x 24" x 5". 23. “Split Form #6” (2008); Australian red cedar; 12" x 12" x 7". 24. Grant’s templates showing the meticulous measurements and holes for depth drilling. 25. Grant Vaughan in his secluded valley surrounded by the forest he has regenerated.

20. Enfolded Form (2004).

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21. “Reflection” (2005); Australian red cedar; 14" x 26" x 8"; Ron & Anita Wornick Collection, Boston Museum.

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rather unfolding naturalistic details that brought to mind the curling leaves of his forest, or the curl of the waves that he loves to surf (10). These ideas have often been reinterpreted in his bowls that appear to unfold in an almost erotic display of a secret interior (11). Grant says, “In the early 80s buyers knew they just wanted something beautiful to look at, but they felt they had to ask, ‘What do we do with it? Do we put fruit in it?’ I had to meet their expectations to some extent.” His bowls and vase-like pieces often met this need for pseudofunction, but as he says, “In my mind, they were never functional.” His work is always sensuous, delicate and evocative in a way that placed it in the category of unique art (12). Several of his pieces are in the collections of the most prestigious museums in Australia, including the National Gallery (13 and 14) From the start, Grant says, “I wanted to be different. I recognized early that there is no way you can mass-produce this stuff if you want to stand out from the crowd. It’s very slow with lots of hand carving and sanding. With some pieces I have really created nightmares for myself.” Grant continued to carve ever-finer bowls, emphasizing and enhancing the inner curves that complement the outer line (15 and 16). It was a foray into the inner world of the vessel and it soon led him into previously unexplored territory: “I cut away so much that it seemed logical to separate the two halves and work on

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them that way.” By working on the two halves separately and then rejoining them, Grant was able to make vessels that were clearly impossible to put things in. In a word, they were sculpture (17). There is a kind of wrapped effect when you look at these vessels, as if there is a vase contained inside delicately carved wings of wood (18). The final step, one that in retrospect seems inevitable, was to leave the two halves separate, allowing them to stand together as pure sculpture, mated by their obvious fit, almost their need to interact (19 and 20). Grant continues to call his sculptures “bowls,” a humble word to describe pieces that evoke a sense of exploration, a discovery of secret places both hidden and yet revealed (21). Each of these pieces is the result of a lifetime of careful development of design, technique, and thoughtful interpretation of nature (22 and 23). It would be easy to imagine that Grant works as an intuitive artist, the pieces spontaneously springing from his mind and evolving as he carves. While there is no doubt that he is inspired, he is one of the most methodical woodworkers I have met. He draws each piece in detail before he makes it and then creates plywood templates that allow him to predetermine the cuts by drilling to depths indicated on the templates (24). “Doing it this way takes a lot of planning,” he says, “but it saves time later because I can cut at speed.” When Grant had finished showing me how he works, we went for a walk in his forest. We stopped at a few giant trees and he WO O DWO R K

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explained how they were the sole survivors of the original bush. Not so long ago they would have been isolated, condemned to a slow death on increasingly leached and eroded land. Now they are surrounded by new forest and will probably live for hundreds of years. Later we sat on the veranda again (25) and as the light faded the forest came to life with the sounds of frogs and night birds. Grant proudly told me how he feels about his personal contribution to nature: “I think I was an advocate for the environment before most people got involved in all this. I can remember right back at school having roaring arguments with my father about the environment and supporting the development of national parks. I’ve always loved pristine places that haven’t been ruined by mankind. Also, I’ve always been conscious of where the wood I use comes from–whether it is sustainable or not. For a long time I’ve been using salvaged timber, wood that’s been left on the forest floor. Anyway, I use so little timber that it’s insignificant.” The next day I drove home thinking about Grant’s life. As the traffic built up, the noise increased and the city soon loomed on the horizon. I couldn’t help feeling that Grant had achieved something really amazing. He is known and respected both at home and internationally for his wood art, but I think his greatest achievement is that he hasn’t had to give up his dream. My respect for that is enormous. Grant Vaughan can be contacted at info@grantvaughan.com.au


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PHOTO BY SCHOPPLEIN.COM

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6/8 TABLES All in a Day’s Work BY JOHN SHERIDAN

EDITOR: TIM JOHNSON; PHOTOS BY JOHN SHERIDAN, UNLESS NOTED

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lthough I’m a professional furniture maker, not every piece that I build is an heirloom. In fact, I’ve discovered that designing attractive, durable pieces that can be built in a short amount of time can be just as satisfying as making fine furniture. I call these my “6/8” designs, because they can be finished in a day or over a weekend—in six to eight hours. The table and bench shown here both fit this description of expedited building. Although they look completely different, their joinery—dowels reinforced with corner blocks—is identical. This simple joinery doesn’t get much attention these days, but the joints are easy to create and they’re very strong. I learned the technique from a shop near mine that specializes in building high-end upholstery frames. There, cornerblocked double-dowel joints are used exclusively, because they’ve proven to be both efficient and durable. As you can see from the two pieces shown here, you can make variations easily when you employ this versatile joinery. Just use your imagination.

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A TAPERED LEG TABLE Dramatically tapered legs give this large table a light and airy appearance, even though it’s built strongly enough to support three dozen orchids. I made the legs and aprons from construction grade Douglas fir 2x4 and 4x4 timbers that were left over from a remodeling job (the timbers had been stacked and allowed to dry for three months). The 4x4 timbers were riftsawn (1), which made them perfect for the legs, because all four faces showed straight grain. The top is 3/4" maple plywood. To save time, I rounded over the plywood edges, instead of gluing on edging. The primer and paint fills the grain. My normal procedure for assembling table bases is to mill the stock, drill for the joinery and then shape the legs. I squared and planed the leg timbers to 3" by 3". After milling the 2x4 rails to 1-1/2" thickness, I ripped them to final width. I used my radial arm saw to square the ends of all the pieces and cut them to length. The one caveat with dowel joinery is that


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PLANS AND PATTERNS

6/8 TABLES ORCHID TABLE CUTTING LIST A B C D E F G

Legs Short aprons Long aprons Dowels Corner blocks Top Top fasteners

4 @ 3" x 3" x 34-1/4" 2 @ 1-1/2" x 3" x 15" 2 @ 1-1/2" x 3" x 58" 24 @ 1/2" dia. x 2" 4 @ 1" x 1-1/2" x 3" 1 @ 3/4" x 24" x 79" 14 KV #320 or similar

BATH BENCH CUTTING LIST A B C D E F G H

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Legs Short aprons Long aprons Dowels Corner blocks Top Top fasteners Glides

4 @ 1-1/2" dia. x 15-3/4" 2 @ 1" x 2-1/2" x 10" 2 @ 1" x 2-1/2" x 17" 16 @ 3/8" dia. x 2" 4 @ 1" x 3/4" x 1-1/2" 1 @ 3/4" x 14" x 25" 6 KV #323 or similar 4 @ 3/4" dia.


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it requires precise layout and sharp brad point bits. I prefer to use a Veritas Sliding Square (#05N32.01) for marking (2), rather than the more familiar combination square. I outfit my drill press with a fence to drill the centered holes in the leg blanks (3). I use a doweling jig to drill the holes in the ends of the rails. The photo (4) shows my prized Stanley #59, which I found in an antique shop in Asheville, NC, but just about any dowelling jig will work. For the strongest joints, the dowels should extend at least twice their diameter into the wood on both pieces. The dowels for this table are 1/2" dia., so all the holes are 1-1/16" deep— the extra 1/16" depth helps to ensure that the joint will close, by providing a cavity for excess glue. Whether using the drill press or the doweling jig, the key to success during this step is to locate the tip of the brad point bit with pinpoint accuracy. I taper the legs using my bandsaw, equipped with a 1/2" 3-tpi blade. Because WO O DWO R K

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it’s so easy to accidentally taper a leg the wrong way, I mark the outside corner on the bottom of each leg with an “x.” This corner is the only one that isn’t cut away during the tapering. The taper starts 1" below the rail, a standard technique to allow for transition sanding to the rails. After drawing the taper on one face of each leg blank, I cut to the outside edge of the line. Then I mark the second taper on the sawn face, so the leg rests flat on the table when I make the cut (5). When both tapers are sawn, I remove the saw marks by jointing. On the jointer, the thick end of the leg goes first, so that the cut follows the grain (6). The photo shows my trusty old 8" Silver jointer (circa 1918). It still has Babbett bearings, but I replaced the original square “finger-chopper” cutterhead with a modern custom-made cutterhead that uses Delta knives. I also installed a Northfield blade guard. Sand the legs and aprons with 100, 150


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and 220 grit sandpaper. Carefully smooth the transition on the tapered faces, so the taper extends to the bottom of the rail. Complete the legs by routing 1/8" chamfers around the bottom, to prevent tearing out the edges when the table is moved. Attach felt pads, if necessary, to protect your hardwood floor. Before I start gluing, I test my joinery with “fitting dowels” (7 and 8). These dowels are carefully sawn halfway from each end, offset 90°, to make them springy and easy to remove. I use solid dowels for glueup—these dowels must be grooved or spiral-cut to allow excess glue to escape. Gluing the table base together is a two step process. First I glue each short apron between two legs. Then I glue the long aprons between the two assembled ends (9). I start by installing the dowels in the aprons. Then I press on the legs. Seating each individual dowel is easy, but substantial forces come into play when pressing in six dowels, to create each end, or twelve dowels, to complete the base. I use Jorgenson “I” bar clamps for this job. Clamping pads between the legs and clamps are a must, to prevent dents in the wood. Mitered corner blocks reinforce the joints and complete the base. I cut and notch these blocks on the bandsaw and disc sand them to fit. They’re glued to the rails and attached to the legs with #10 x 2-1/2" flathead tapping screws. I fasten the top to the frame with Knape & Vogt (KV) steel tabletop fasteners, which are available in several sizes from most hardware catalogs or commercial hardware dealers. The KV #320 (10, at left) is the best size for this table. These S-shaped fasteners slide into slots in the aprons cut with the biscuit jointer adjusted to the #20 setting. A router equipped with a 3/16" slotting cutter works, too. The slot must be positioned so that screwing in the fasteners pulls the top to securely to the frame (11). These fasteners are usually used with solid wood tops, to allow seasonal movement. Movement isn’t an issue here, because the top is plywood. I use them because they’re economical to buy and easy to install. Before installing the fasteners, I dust them with spray paint, to keep them from rusting; here I used gloss black paint. I finished this table base with three coats

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of clear waterborne polyurethane. In good drying conditions, I can apply all three coats in less than two hours. The top is satin latex paint. The painted-on socks visually ground the feet and add a touch of whimsey.

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A TURNED LEG BENCH I designed this small bench for a bathroom. Its columnar legs match the fixtures and its painted finish matches the bathroom walls and trim. The 3/4" marine plywood top is impervious to moisture and plastic glides keep the feet dry. The cylindrical legs require only basic turning skills, using a roughing gouge, a skew and a beading tool, followed by sanding. My design creates a tight transition from the curved legs to the flat aprons. The joinery is the same as on the tapered leg table, although completing it requires a few additional steps. Once again, milling the stock is the first step. Plane and square the leg blanks to 19/16" billets (as the squared stock is called before joinery and shaping). Plane the aprons to 1" thick and rip them to 2-1/2". Square the ends of the billets and aprons and cut them to length. Next, drill 1-5/16" deep dowel holes in the legs and 1-1/16" deep holes in the aprons. First, lay out the holes on adjacent faces of each leg. As before, the holes are always centered across the width. But because these leg blanks are smaller in section, there’s a problem: If the holes are drilled at the same location in each adjacent face, they’ll intersect, resulting in a weak joint. My solution is to offset the holes, higher on one face and lower on the other, so they don’t intersect. This creates

another challenge: making sure that the offset holes drilled in the aprons match the offset holes in the legs. My solution for this issue is to lay out the dowel holes to create the legs in two mirror-image pairs. Then I orient the “high-hole” faces with the short aprons and the “low-hole” faces with the long aprons. As on the tapered leg table, I drill the leg holes on my drill press and the apron holes with my doweling jig. At this point, I locate and mark the centers on both ends of all the legs, to facilitate turning; the centers must be marked before the next step is completed. To create the transition from curved leg WO O DWO R K

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to flat apron, both joint faces of each leg are precisely notched to fit the aprons. First, I use a tenoning jig to cut the cheeks (12). Then I use the tablesaw to cut the shoulders (13). The completed notches measure 1/4" x 21/2"; the dowel holes should now measure 11/16" deep, so the dowels protrude 1" (14). After mounting each leg on the lathe with the notched end at the tailstock, I use a spindle roughing gouge to turn the cylinder and calipers to gauge the diameter. Turning the notched end is no big deal; just maintain the same technique: keep the gouge firmly on the tool rest and apply light, steady cutting pressure. Stop the lathe to gauge the diameter. I switch to an oval


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skew chisel to make a final cleaning pass (15). It leaves a super-clean surface that requires minimal sanding. Turning the leg to a cylinder reduces the width of the notch faces—I aim for them to end up 1" wide. I use a 3/8" beading tool to create the foot and round the bottom. Light sanding completes the job. From here on, the steps parallel the tapered leg table. I test-fit the joints (16). If an apron protrudes beyond the leg’s 1" wide flat notches, I plane the apron’s outside face to make it flush. After gluing the aprons to the legs, I install the corner blocks (17). Then I fasten the top, using smaller KV #323 fasteners (10, at right). As I said at the outset, completing a useful, well-constructed product in a short period of time is a worthwhile endeavor. After all, life is short and there are so many projects to build!


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I

THE PAIR OF SHOES

Let me tell you a simple story about two shoes. An art teacher had a very special class, consisting of six brilliant, skillful students selected from all over the country. One day, the teacher took off his right shoe and placed it on a high platform in the middle of the room. “Draw this shoe with pencil on paper as realistically as possible,” he commanded the class. When the teacher entered the classroom the following week, the students had finished their drawings. The teacher said that he was very satisfied. But he pointed once again to the shoe on the platform. “Now you are going to make this shoe as realistically as possible. You can use any material you wish.” One student asked the teacher, “Can I make the left shoe instead of the right shoe?” The teacher thought the question a bit irregular, but permitted the student to do so. He gave the class two months to finish the project. The time passed quickly, and on the appointed day everybody returned to the classroom. Five students had made their shoes in all kinds of materials: wood, stone, tin, copper, paper–you name it. One student held back–the young man who asked to make a left shoe. The teacher asked him, “Where is your shoe?” The student pulled it out of a cardboard shoebox. His shoe was made of

BY TOSHIO ODATE

T oshio Odate apprenticed as a young woodworker in Japan during the 1940s. He moved to New York in 1958, became a renowned sculptor, and was instrumental in introducing America and Europe to the Japanese craft tradition, publishing the seminal work Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use in 1984. This article is a loose transcript of a lecture given at the 2008 Furniture Society Conference, in Purchase, New York. Toshio’s subject was “The Morality of the Craftsman.” To begin the talk, Toshio took a pair of shoes from a box and put the right shoe on the table. WO O DWO R K

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EDITOR: TOM CASPAR; PHOTOS: LAURE OLENDER

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the same leather, had the same sole, featured the same stitching pattern, and was exactly the same size as the teacher’s right shoe. His father was a shoemaker! Both shoes were now a perfect pair.

you the story about the art class, if I had said that the right shoe on the table in front of me is Craft, and the left shoe in my hand is Art, I’m sure you would have been confused, and laughed. Now, I hope that this statement makes sense.

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I think this story reveals the status of Craft and Fine Art. The right shoe, the one that belonged to the teacher, was made by a shoemaker for people to wear. As a craftsman, he could not make his shoes three or four feet long. This wouldn’t serve society. Fundamentally, crafts exist because society demands a craftsman’s products. If society does not want them, then the craft, the craftsman and craftsmanship will die out. For this reason, the craftsman’s social responsibility is to deliver a service, 100%. Now, the left shoe, the one made by the student, that’s different. It may look identical to the right shoe, but it’s Art. It’s not made to wear. If the artist desired, he could have made his shoe any size, even 100 feet long. An artist finds his or her own point of view of life and creates objects that reflect it. Therefore, an artist’s social responsibility and obligation is to find a valid concept, execute it, then share it with society. Often you cannot tell just by looking at an object if it is Art or Craft. You have to understand the maker’s intent. Before I told WO O DWO R K

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I came to America in 1958. In 1961 I became an art instructor at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. The museum neighborhood was then quite safe; there was some degree of social order. But in the early or middle 60s, one of the museum staff was mugged nearby. The next day, small groups gathered at the museum, whispering about the episode. The same disturbed talking took place the next day, and day after day; the scene did not fade out for a week. It was a great shock to every one. During this period, social order rapidly deteriorated, not only around the museum, but also in the whole city. Sometime in the late 60s, someone was murdered on the Eastern Parkway, near our museum. I think he was killed because he didn’t have a cigarette. However, this time people stopped talking about it after four or five days. Neither muggings nor killings were unusual, shocking episodes any longer.

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But as I continued to look at the plywood ceiling, I noticed more missed nails! I checked the whole ceiling, and found to my surprise that most nails had missed, joist after joist. I was getting angry, then became furious. I could not control my emotions. My sincerity was betrayed. I called up my good friend, but instead of providing sympathy, he laughed at me and said, “Why are you so angry? Everybody does it. It’s not a big deal! Call the carpenters, and they will return and fix the floor for you.” However, I did not want to talk with them, did not want to see them, and did not want them to touch anything. It was not about money or time; it was their abuse of my trust. I called another friend, a woodworker in Long Island, and told him about the episode. Much to my astonishment, he laughed at me–even more than my other friend. “Where have you been?” he said, “That’s nothing! I’ll tell you another story.” He continued, “I know someone who recently hired a roofer. A couple of guys went to the job site, did their work, finished the roof and left. A week or so later, the fellow found a few loose shingles. He looked closer at the roof and found that many layers of shingles hadn’t been nailed, but the shingles all had nail-gun marks. The gun had been empty! Of course, the guys came back and renailed the roof. Their excuse was that an assistant did not know the nail gun well.” My friend also suggested that I should call the carpenters and let them fix my floor. I didn’t. Instead, I pounded out each nail, one by one, went upstairs and pulled out all the nails. I re-nailed the entire floor by hand.

IV

My father was a Shokunin, a craftsman, and I was one, too. I grew up in a country that respects and cares for Shokunin. After I came to the United States I changed professions to become a teacher and sculptor, but I still maintained the pride of a Shokunin. I’ve built most of my studio and worked on my house, but recently I required some carpenters to build a second-story floor in my studio. I asked a good friend to do the work, but he was too busy and instead sent two carpenters and one young man (an assistant or just a gofer? I never figured that out). They arrived in a pickup truck, coffee cup in one hand and cigarette in the other. I showed them the materials and the place to build the floor. The floor was 3/4" thick, with 4x8 tongue-and-groove plywood on 2x8 joists. They knew what had to be done. It was the first time in my life that I watched other craftsmen do work for me. When I was a Shokunin in Japan, I remember how much we valued having tea and a little snack at 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. I enjoyed the little rests in the day. So, I did my best in serving the craftsmen. I made coffee, provided snacks and showed them my respect and appreciation. They stayed three days and finished the job. I thanked them from the bottom of my heart. After the carpenters finished, the room below the new floor was very dark. Four weeks later I laid the first electric line and turned on one small light to lay more lines. I was very excited and happy. However, I looked up at the ceiling and noticed that a few nails had missed a joist. I thought to myself, “The carpenter just missed a couple, not a big deal. I can push them out later and renail them.” WO O DWO R K

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Starting in the early 60s, Craft became very popular in society. Woodworking clubs, craft schools and museums devoted to the crafts emerged all over this country. They were well supported, both financially and politically. We were proud to say, “I am a craftsman.” I believe that the popularity of Craft waned rather hastily between the 70s and 80s. Crafts centers, even very well-known Crafts schools, faced financial difficulties and inevitably closed. In the 90s, organizations and sponsors of Craft shifted their interest toward the Fine Arts. Surviving craft centers, schools and museums were forced to lean toward the Fine Arts. Some of them even changed their names. At the same time, have craftsmen lost social trust and respect? Yes, we have.

VI

Too often I have heard craftsmen say, “Trustworthy, beautiful materials and work are useless when customers do not understand or appreciate them. And they won’t pay!” I understand their dilemma, but these craftsmen do not know that their social responsibility and obligation is 100% of social service. We have to provide our best to society, with sincerity. We must build on a strong, true foundation and morality. Perhaps then we will regain social trust and respect.

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GALLERY

2008 Design in Wood Exhibition

DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA

In 1982, 35 members of the San Diego Fine Woodworker’s Association (SDFWA) participated in the first Design in Wood Exhibition. Today the SDFWA has over 1600 members and Design in Wood now averages over 300 entries and awards over $20,000 in prize money to entries in 22 classes. Pictured here are several award winners from the 2008 exhibition.

ALL PHOTOS BY ANDREW PATTERSON AND LYNN RYBARCZYK

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1. CRAIG THIBODEAU “Chess Table” Macassar ebony, holly, bubinga 34" x 25" x 25"

2. JOHN E. KETTMAN “Boulle Marquetry Cabinet” Tiger maple, Gabon ebony, Honduras mahogany 42" x 23" x 76"

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3. JOE DAMATO “Clarion Angelfish with Sea Nettle Jellyfish” Jelutong 19" x 10"


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GALLERY

2008 Design in Wood Exhibition

DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA

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4. PAUL SCHURCH “Sorghum Settee” Urban claro walnut, poplar, maple, sorghum 35" x 28" x 74"

5. RUSS FILBECK “Ladderback Rocking Chair” Curly maple, rosewood 45" x 27" x 43"

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6. LEO J. KILIAN III “Under the Pier” Padauk, ponderosa pine, poplar, purpleheart, teak, walnut, yellowheart, zebrawood 43" x 30"


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8 7. BRIAN D. JACKSON “Table Lamp with Shade” Norfolk Island pine, mesquite 19" x 16"

10 8. OSCAR KIRSTEN “Enclosed Vessel” Claro walnut 16" x 10"

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9. BRIAN K. CARNETT “Kluwe Bedside Table” Wenge, quilted maple 29" x 15" x 15"

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10. TOM THORNTON “3 Drawer Jewelry Box” Walnut, spalted maple, wenge 8" x 13" x 16"


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GALLERY

500 Tables

LARK BOOKS

500 Tables: Inspiring Interpretations of Function and Style is the latest in Lark Book's visually dynamic series that also includes 500 Wood Bowls, 400 Wood Boxes and 500 Chairs. About 2000 entries were considered for 500 Tables, and final choices for inclusion were made by juror Andrew Glasgow, executive director of the American Craft Council and former executive director of The Furniture Society. As these pieces from 500 Tables indicate, the books in this series offer samples of outstanding work in traditional, conceptual, and practical modern furniture design. An upcoming title, 500 Cabinets, is scheduled for release in the fall of 2010. A call for entries will be posted online: Visit www.larkbooks.com for more information.

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1. STEPHEN WHITTLESEY "Mandolin" (2007) Salvaged oak, padauk, cherry 18" x 80" x 24" Photo by Stephen Whittlesey

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF LARK BOOKS, COPYRIGHT 2008

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2. JEFF WALLIN "Tsunami Table" (2006) Mild steel, rust patina 17" x 48" x 16" Photo by Keith Cotton

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3. FLOYD GOMPF "Wheeled Side Table" (2007) Found wood, found wheels 29" x 18" x 13" Photo by Richard Hellyer

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4. CRAIG NUTT "Tomato Table" (1996) Dyed and natural wood marquetry, oil paint 26" x 23" x 23" Photo by Rickey Yanaura


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Currently available by pre-order, Lark Book’s 500 Tables goes on sale in May.

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5. CHRIS BOWMAN "Hey Series #1" (2006) Catalpa, poplar, milk paint 25" x 30" x 8" Photo by Chris Bowman

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6. BRENT HARRISON SKIDMORE "Top Down Boo" (2003) Plane tree, poplar, steel, acrylic paints 34" x 57" x 18" Photo by David Ramsey

7. DEREK SECOR DAVIS "In the Realm of the Senses" (2004) Pigmented epoxy, aspen twigs, poplar, acrylic, milk paint. 35" x 19" x 48" Photo by John Bonath

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8. MARK S. LEVIN "Pear Coffee Table with Drawer" (2007) Australian lacewood, bubinga 16" x 43" x 30" Photo by Margot Geist

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9. DAMON MCINTYRE "Tea for Two" (2007) White oak 42" x 48" x 16" Photo by Damon McIntyre


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WOODEN GROOVING AND RABBETING PLANES

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tablesaw equipped with a dado set is brutally efficient for cutting dozens of grooves, dadoes or rabbets. I tend to build just one piece at a time, though, so I rarely find myself faced with making such a large number of joints. More typically, I need dadoes for two or four shelves, and I turn to an old set of wooden dado planes. I also use antique wooden

planes for cutting grooves and rabbets–I believe that all are useful in the modern shop. So too are their metal-bodied equivalents, which I’ll talk about in a future issue.

THE PLOW PLANE There are three different kinds of square channels typically used in casework: the groove, which is plowed a distance from the WO O DWO R K

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edge in the direction of the grain; the rabbet, which is cut along the edge either with the grain or across the grain; and the dado, which is cut across the grain. There’s a specific plane best suited for each of these cuts. The plow plane is the hand tool of choice for cutting grooves. Plow planes were typically equipped with a set of eight interchangeable irons graduated in 1/16"

EDITOR: TOM CASPAR

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY KERRY PIERCE


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increments from 1/8" to 5/8" (skipping 9/16"). Unfortunately, plows are almost never found with full sets of irons. I own about a dozen plows, and each one came to me with only a single iron. However, it is possible to buy loose irons from tool dealers and on eBay, and in that manner assemble a set. But I should warn you: Not all irons will fit all plows. The closest I’ve come to a full set is a group of five different irons for my Ohio Tool plow (1). You may need to recondition an old plane before you can use it (see my article “Restoring a Wooden Plow Plane,” Woodwork #97, February 2006, p. 72), but they are simple tools to understand and adjust. In some plows—usually the English ones— the arms and fence are held in position by wedges tapped into tapered mortises cut in the sides of the arm mortises (2, rear). The arms and fences of early American plows are often held with thumbscrews (usually made of boxwood) passing down through the plane’s body to make contact with the fence arms (2, right). Later—and in my view, better—American plows are equipped with threaded screw arms, also made of boxwood. The arms pass through unthreaded mortises in the plow’s body (2, left and front). The fence is held in position by trapping the plane’s body between threaded boxwood washers and larger threaded boxwood nuts (3). In this photo, these parts are laid out in order of assembly. A plow plane is fitted with a moveable depth stop that can be set to create grooves up to about 1" deep. In photo 4, the depth stop is the metal shoe visible behind the skate. It’s raised and lowered by a brass thumbscrew on top of the plane and locked with a second thumbscrew on the plane body’s left side. Different plows have different styles of depth stops. The early American plow on the right in photo 3, for example, has a depth stop that’s a piece of boxwood friction-fit into a vertical throughmortise in the plane’s body. A plow plane iron is quite heavy on the business end, 1/4" or more, tapering to less than 1/16" at the top of the tang. Sometimes the tang is snecked (a sneck is a metal tab that may be tapped with a hammer to adjust the iron). The iron is held with a tapered wedge and is typically bedded at 45° to 50°. Each iron has a groove milled into the center of its back that fits snugly

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on the plane’s metal skate (4). This arrangement stabilizes the iron. Plow plane blades are sharpened like ordinary plane blades. You may have difficulty removing a stuck iron, though. Here’s how to do it: With the thumb and forefinger of your off hand, grasp the iron’s tang and the finial at the end of the wedge (5). Tap the plane’s heel with a hefty mallet, in effect driving the plane off the wedge and iron. If this doesn’t work, clamp the wedge’s finial in a vise and drive up the body with mallet blows. (Be careful, to avoid cracking the wedge.) When you install a sharpened iron, make sure that its groove engages the skate. Turn the plane over, sight along the skate and position the iron so that its cutting edge just barely peeks above the skate. Then tap the wedge firmly in place with a wooden or hard-rubber mallet (6). Some craftsmen used metal mallets or hammers, but I’ve seen a lot of damage from them, including mushroomed tangs on irons and broken finials on wedges. Next, set the fence. Determine the desired distance between the edge of the board and the outside edge of the groove, then set the fence by measuring the distance from the inside edge of the iron to the fence. Snug up the washers on the lefthand side of the plow’s body. Next, check that the fence is parallel to the skate. First, measure the distance from the inside edge of the skate to the front portion of the fence (7). Make the same measurement at the back of the fence and compare numbers. If they’re different, adjust one of the washers. Once the fence is parallel, tighten the nuts to trap the plane’s body against the washers. You’re ready to apply the plow to the wood. With your left hand, press the fence against the board’s edge. Press the skate (and the cutting edge) down onto the board with your right hand. Using both hands, push the plow forward (8). Some users prefer to start a groove at the far end of a board and work backwards, but I’ve always started at the near end of a board and haven’t had any problems. If this is your first time using a plow, I can almost guarantee that your depth of cut will need to be reset. A proper shaving will be thin enough to curl but not quite as thin as one made by a smoothing plane.

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RABBET PLANES AND MOVING FILLETSTERS Wooden rabbet planes are simple tools: they’re just comprised of a body, blade and wedge (9, right). They must have been widely used in the 19th century, judging by the number of antique planes around, but I prefer a more sophisticated tool: the moving filletster (9, left and center). These planes have fences, depth stops and slitters. The blades in rabbet planes and moving filletsters are flush with the right side of the plane’s body, so you can work right up to an adjacent surface. Some irons are square to the plane’s body, but many are skewed. A rabbet plane doesn’t have a fence, so you must clamp a batten to your workpiece to guide it. A moving filletster’s fence is different than a plow plane’s fence. On my planes, it’s a 2" wide board attached to the sole via a pair of large screws (10). Adjust-

ing the fence is a simple matter of loosening and tightening the screws, but, like the plow plane’s fence, you should measure in two places to be sure that it’s parallel to the plane’s body. On a moving filletster, a slitter, or nicker, scores the wood ahead of the iron (11). This blade is particularly important when you’re cutting a rabbet across the grain, in order to make a clean cut. My planes have different slitters: on one, the slitter is wedged in place like a conventional plane iron; on the other, it’s a length of tapered metal fixed into a dovetail-shaped mortise. Slitters must be sharp, and are installed so the bevel faces in. Adjust the slitter’s exposure so that the point extends from 1/32" to 1/16" below the sole. Both of my moving filletsters have skewed irons which must be carefully ground and sharpened to maintain the correct skew angle. When you install the iron WO O DWO R K

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in a rabbet plane or moving filletster be careful to position it so that its right outside corner is perfectly aligned with the righthand side of the plane. Ideally, you’ll want a bit more exposure of the cutting edge through the sole than you would with a smoothing plane. To cut a rabbet with a moving filletster, crowd the fence against the edge of the stock being rabbetted with your left hand (12). Then, with your right hand applying both downward pressure and forward movement, begin taking shavings. Cross-grain rabbets require extra preparation. In order to prevent the plane from tearing out fibers at the end of each stroke, clamp a backer board onto the far edge of the stock (13). When you’re working with a relatively brittle species you might want to first score across the grain with a sharp knife, in order to cut deeper than the slitter.


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DADO PLANES Dado planes come in a variety of widths, usually in 1/8" increments from 1/4" to 7/8". They are significantly more sophisticated than rabbet planes, but of course they don’t have fences like a moving filletster. A dado plane has two irons–the primary iron, which cuts the shavings, plus a secondary iron in the front of the plane that scores the wood on both sides of the cut (14). The primary iron is skewed, while the secondary iron is really just a pair of slitters ground on the end of a rectangular blade. The slitter iron is the full width of the dado, and is sharpened so that the bevels face in. Dado planes also have depth stops of various designs. While I love using wooden dado planes, it does take some thought to set up a cut (15). A dado plane must be guided by a batten, so in addition to fixing the stock between bench dogs, you must also clamp or tack a batten beside the dado you wish to cut. Plus, because dados go across the grain, you should clamp a backer board to your stock in order to avoid ripping out long splinters when you complete your cut. As you can see in photo 15, a wooden dado plane lifts clean cross-grain shavings between the scorings left by the slitter iron.

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WORKING IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY

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The truth is, I don’t choose to use these hand tools because I’m looking for greater efficiency. I use them for other, in my view, more compelling reasons. Foremost among these is a direct and concrete connection with the history of my craft. My A. & E. Baldwin moving filletster (16) was made in New York City between 1830 and 1841. It was likely used in that city or its environs during the first years of its life by a craftsman whose name is now lost. The plane traveled from New York to Ohio during the next 175 years, perhaps stopping along the way to provide service in the shops of several other craftsmen. Every time I pick up the plane and apply it to wood, I am connected to those woodworkers. When I smile at the site of a shaving curling up from the plane’s throat, I imagine a similar smile on the face of the craftsman who first used this tool somewhere in New York, a long time ago.

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FINEPLY A remarkable new form of shop-built plywood can stretch your imagination!

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he things humans have made over the millennia have depended upon both the materials available and our understanding of their properties. Secondarily, we’ve had to develop appropriate tools and techniques to manipulate these materials. This is true on the grand scale of, say, the Coliseum in Rome, all the way to tiny-scaled items, such as nanomachines. The human scale, where most woodworking efforts reside, is just as dependent upon materials. New materials are not so frequently encountered in a field as old as woodworking. In fact, most woodworkers believe this area has been pretty thoroughly explored.

Still, industry’s recent introduction of sheet goods such as MDF, OSB, and particleboard has influenced the types of objects we make. New adhesives, fasteners and tools can also change the range of shapes that we make of wood, sometimes dramatically. This is the story of a new material for the woodworker’s arsenal. Woodworking as I knew it changed suddenly on a memorable day in January 2001. I had wanted to make small wooden snowflakes, which are exceptionally difficult forms. For the previous 10 years or so I’d been making shop-built plywood out of veneers, and this particular day I used a vacuum bag as the clamping system, some-

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thing I’d never done before. While not initially obvious, the difference in this plywood was profound. It was more than strong enough to withstand the cutting and shaping process necessary to produce those delicate snowflakes. I was both surprised (well, astonished, actually) at my success and intensely curious. Having now worked for several years with this material, I am convinced that its properties are different from anything I’ve ever encountered. It looks like wood, yet it behaves in unique ways. I call it Fineply. I’m a long-time woodworker, but my background is in basic research, so I’ve approached exploring this material from that perspective. Early on in my work with shop-built plywood, before I discovered Fineply, I had settled on marine epoxy as my adhesive of choice. When you clamp a veneer and epoxy sandwich under vacuum pressure, I suspect that the epoxy infiltrates the wood fibers of the thin veneers before it cross-links and cures. While most of us think of epoxy as strictly an adhesive, it is also a plastic, and I believe that Fineply really amounts to a form of “plasticized” wood, with properties of both materials.

1. Shavings from Fineply and ordinary plywood. 2. “Hortense”, the leafy sea dragon (2008); finish by David Reeves; 20" x 16" x 8".

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EDITOR: TOM CASPAR; PHOTOS: JOHN LUCAS

BY JERRY SPADY


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Irrespective of grain configuration, Fineply is much stronger than any plywood I’ve ever used, and this is especially true in smaller dimensions. Fineply is built up in the same way as ordinary plywood, with the grain direction alternating in each layer, but there the similarities end. To give an extreme example, I can plane an intact, or nearly so, ribbon-like shaving from any edge of a five-layer piece of Fineply (1). Commercial plywood won’t yield intact edge shavings. I’ve exploited Fineply’s strength to create very delicate, three-dimensional figures such as “Hortense” (2), “Chest of Drawers” (3) or “Neuron” (4). Fineply can also be fashioned into thin door panels or legs that are delicate in appearance, yet strong enough to support weight (5). Fineply is exceptionally stable. Like plywood, it won’t move as much as solid wood with changes in humidity (a structural effect). Recall that Fineply contains epoxy, which in a thick enough film is an absolute

barrier to water, both in liquid and vapor forms. So if you apply an element created with Fineply (such as a cattail or a butterfly) upon the surface of a larger panel of Fineply, the resulting structure should be immune to the problems associated with wood movement over time (6). Fineply may be carved to exquisite detail (7). You don’t have to design around problems of grain configuration. You can also create what I like to think of as threedimensional marquetry. I’ve made Fineply from veneers of contrasting colors, then carved it to specific depths at specific locations. The different colors or grain configurations result in realistic images with more three-dimensionality (see photo 7, next page, and 8, page 38). Exploring Fineply’s properties has been enjoyable, to say the least. Since I make the Fineply myself, I’m freed from reliance on a commercial source, even if one were available. I can make whatever type I wish, including curved pieces that are formed WO O DWO R K

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3. “Chest of Drawers” (2005); 29" x 19" x 12". 4. “Neuron” (2003); 16"x 10" x 6". 5. “Aquarium” (2006); 65" x 32" x 16".

over a mold (9). (This piece was made in collaboration with sculptor/turner Ralph Watts.) Parameters such as the thickness of individual veneers, the number of layers, the veneer’s color or contrasting figure, the overall size of the panel and its curvature are all under my control. I’ve used both commercially available veneers and created my own by resawing.


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HOW TO MAKE FINEPLY FINEPLY IS SIMPLY SHOP-MADE PLYWOOD, with a twist.The essential ingredients are veneer, epoxy and a vacuum press. First, select the veneer (above). You may use various colors, as shown here, to create interesting visual effects. Cut the veneers to the same length and width, but alternate the grain direction of each successive layer, like ordinary plywood. You can make wider or longer pieces by using Scotch tape. Next, cut a couple of pieces of wax paper a few inches longer and wider than the veneer. You may have to tape several pieces together. Put on disposable gloves and mix the epoxy. I use West System 105 resin and 205 (fast-set) hardener. Place the first layer of veneer on the wax paper (1). Pour the epoxy on the veneer and spread it around (2). If it starts to soak in, add more epoxy until a noticeable layer remains on top. Don’t skimp on the adhesive—there should be squeeze-out and bleed-through during the vacuum-clamping stage. Coat both sides of the inner layers. Be sure to orient each layer 90o to the one below (3 and 4). Coat only one side of the top layer. Add another piece of wax paper on top of the sandwich and wrap the entire sandwich, securing the paper with Scotch tape (5). Place the sandwich in the vacuum bag, seal the bag and turn on the vacuum. The wax paper will prevent the epoxy from leaking out in the vacuum bag. Leave the sandwich in the bag for 4 to 5 hours to give the epoxy enough time to set up. Remove the sandwich and take off the wax paper (6). Let the Fineply cure overnight. Clean up the excess epoxy around the edges using a jointer; light sanding will remove the bleed-through. The resulting material might be a detail carving, such as a decorative fan (7), revealing the different colors at different depths in this piece of Fineply.

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6. “Elaina’s Hope Chest” (2005); 20" x 30" x 16". 7. “Homage to Grinling Gibbons” (2007); detail. 8. “Emily’s Ascent” (2008); detail. 9. “Venusian Houseplant” (2007); 75" x 22" x 20". 10. “Neural Whimsy” (2007); 69" x 33" x 45".

Working with Fineply requires a slightly different approach to woodworking. Once I realized how delicately you can shape this material, I soon ran out of power tools and found myself reaching for hand tools, such as hand-cut rasps for rough shaping and #2 and #3 (German cut) jeweler’s files for finishing up. Many of the complex and convoluted shapes I’ve created required small pieces that were difficult to grasp in my fingers, much less a vise. And joining delicate pieces to each other introduced a new set of challenges (3 and 10).

I’ve worked with Fineply for eight years now, and haven’t exhausted ways to use it, nor do I seem to have reached its limits. In fact, I’ve deliberately tried to make strange forms that I thought might be impossible to make out of wood. I believe Fineply opens up a whole new range of possibilities in the ways that we can express forms and ideas in wood. It’s easy to make and surprisingly versatile in application. I hope there are others out there in the woodworking community who might enjoy a new material to play with. WO O DWO R K

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I’m looking forward to seeing where this might lead you. You might find yourself looking at jewelry supply houses for the necessary tools if you choose to work at a delicate scale. As you become more adept with the material, your projects may well become almost absurdly labor-intensive (sadly, I know this all too well!). Fineply will likely introduce new problems into your shop, but the challenge of solving them will surely be interesting and rewarding.


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RECREATING A 17th-CENTURY CARVED BOX

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ost 17th-century households in England and New England contained one or more small boxes for storing a variety of everyday objects. These boxes were made in a joiner’s shop and were usually decorated with carving on the front, and sometimes the sides. Making a box is a good introduction to some of the basic elements of the joiner’s craft.

MATERIALS The box requires several oak boards whose width becomes the box’s height–generally 6" to 9". The box’s body is composed of two long boards (the front and back) and two short boards (the ends). Typically the ends are slightly thicker. Ends that are 3/4" thick and front and back boards that are 1/2" thick work well.

The front and back boards are rabbetted to receive the end boards. The joint is secured with three wrought nails or slightly tapered, square wooden pegs, and glued. The box’s bottom and lid can be white pine, which allows you to work with a single board, or oak, which is usually glued up to form the necessary width. Make these pieces from 1/2" to 5/8" thick. The lid can be attached with wooden pintle hinges or iron hinges made by a blacksmith (see Gimmal Hinges, page 45).

RIVE THE LOG Oak boards are split or “riven” from the log. Select a straight-grained, knot-free section of freshly cut red or white oak. Split the log into halves, then quarters and eighths, using wedges and a sledge hammer WO O DWO R K

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or maul (1). Always wear safety glasses when driving metal wedges with a sledgehammer or maul. Split the resulting pie-shaped bolts with a froe and club (2). You’ll get the best results when you split a bolt in halves, which equalizes the stress on the timber. Drive the froe until it is fully buried, then twist the handle to further the split. Slide the froe’s blade down the open split, and twist the handle again. Continue until the piece breaks open. If it’s difficult to lever the piece open with the froe, go back to using wedges. Split your stock slightly oversize, to allow for dressing the boards. Split two pieces for the front and back, and a third for both ends. Riving produces high-quality radial boards, essentially the same as truly quar-

EDITOR: TOM CASPAR

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY PETER FOLLANSBEE


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tersawn stock. They’re dimensionally very stable and easier to work than tangential, or flatsawn boards.

DRESS THE BOARDS Green wood is easier to plane and carve than dried wood; so begin working on the rough-split sections as soon as you can. Their stability ensures that the finished piece won’t distort much as it loses moisture. Some boards might need hewing first in order to rectify twisted or unevenly split surfaces (3). A hewing hatchet is essentially a small version of the broadaxe–flat on the back, one bevel on the front. Now, on to planing. I prefer to use wood-bodied planes, because they won’t stain green oak. Metal-bodied planes may leave a stain, but it’s usually superficial and can be removed with one light shaving. Begin planing the first face of the stock with a scrub or fore plane (4). Both planes have convex-shaped irons that remove stock quickly. I often plane across the width of the board, because it requires less effort. The resulting surface must be dressed with a smooth plane to clean up the hollows left by the fore plane. If a riven surface is reasonably flat, I go directly to the smooth plane. As you plane, sight across the top edges of a pair of winding sticks to check for twist (5). Green oak planes very easily; so don’t overdo it. After you’ve planed one face flat, plane an edge along the board’s bark edge, removing all of the sapwood first. Make sure it’s square to the board’s face. Then use a chalk line to mark a straight line parallel to this edge at the heart side of the board. Hew and plane this edge, then mark the board’s thickness by using a marking gauge to scribe a line around the board’s perimeter. Plane to the line. The inner surface of the front board should be fairly flat, but it needn’t be perfect. It mainly needs to be flat so it sits steady while carving. For the back board, the face inside the box should be the better surface. Its outer surface is not very critical, and can retain some coarse tool marks. When you’re done with each planing session, disassemble your irons and clean them well. Wipe a metal-bodied plane. Wet, acidic green-oak shavings can rust and discolor blades and plane bodies. After all the boards are dressed, set them

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aside for a short time for initial drying. A week or two is usually sufficient, but the time required depends on the humidity where you store the boards. Carving is easier on timber that is only slightly seasoned.

LAY OUT THE CARVING Carving on 17th-century boxes was laid out with a compass, straightedge, ruler and awl–not a template. These tools are much more versatile; it’s easy to adjust a compass for variously sized boards. I prefer an awl and a marking gauge for layout over a pencil because pencil marks are troublesome to remove. I allow some of the scribed lines to remain in the finished carving, in keeping with 17th-century practice. Begin by using a try square and awl to define the width of the box on the front and inside faces of the front board. Leave about 3/4" of waste wood beyond these lines for nailing or clamping the board to the bench. Using the marking gauge, scribe a 1/2" margin along both edges, to define the field to be carved. Mark vertical and horizontal centerlines. While I do all the layout directly on my board, you may want to make a pencil sketch of the general layout before scribing the wood (6). Set the compass to the distance from the horizontal centerline to one of the horizontal margins. Starting at one end, scribe a half-circle above the horizontal centerline. When the leg of the compass swings over and hits the centerline, pivot the compass and scribe the next half-circle below the centerline. Continue leapfrogging these half-circles until you reach the other end of the board. Close the legs of the compass a bit and, using the center points you created before, scribe the inner half-circles. This time you must lift the compass and move it to each center point. With a square and awl, scribe vertical centerlines that run between the circles and through their centers.

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OUTLINE THE PATTERN For removal of the background, I use several different gouges and chisels, including a V-tool, at least two fairly large gouges, a smaller, slightly curved gouge, and some almost flat narrow gouges (7). Sometimes I also use a shop-made punch for texturing the background or accenting the carvings. The angle between the tool’s handle and WO O DWO R K

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the board determine the carving’s depth. Beginners tend to carve too shallow. Remember, as you’re carving you’re closer to the piece than you will be when it’s finished, so don’t be afraid to cut a little deeper. Experiment with different angles: the steeper the handle, the deeper the carving. Using the V-tool, begin carving the halfcircles on the upper section of the pattern. Go from the top center towards the bottom left (think 12 o’clock to 9 o’clock). While in the same position, cut the bottom circles from the right-hand centerline towards the bottom center of the circles (3 o’clock to 6 o’clock). Using the same posture to make similar cuts helps with uniformity and efficiency. Switch your posture and cut the remaining half-circles, working your way along the board (8). Strike a small, tightly curved gouge with the mallet to incise the beginnings of the pattern within the half-circles (9). This usually requires two overlapping strikes, side by side. The first is connected to the ends of the inner half-circles. Next, use a fairly wide curved gouge to begin defining the three-lobed leaves (10). Strike the gouge twice, to the right and left of the semicircles, top center. Do all the cuts to the right, then switch around and do all the ones on the left. Make the next cuts with a more steeply curved large gouge, to connect the two elements cut previously (11). This takes two side-by-side chops with the gouge.

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CARVE THE BACKGROUND Begin removing the background with a very shallow curved gouge (12). Instead of the mallet providing pressure, these cuts are mostly done with hand pressure. Support the cutting edge of the tool by resting your lower hand on the wood. Brace the hand gripping the handle against your torso. Some of the force comes from your body, not from moving your arms. Move the tool side to side by hand as you work it up to the incised cuts of the outline. The chip will pop up. If the vertical cut is not deep enough, sometimes the chip does not pop out. In this case, the tendency is to try to flick it with the gouge. Don’t do it. Redo the vertical cut to release the chips. Half of the background is now removed. All that’s left are the hard-to-reach spots where the upper and lower patterns meet

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(13). I often use the mallet to get in here; hand pressure in these tight spots can sometimes go astray and remove something that’s meant to stay. Once all the background is removed, use the V-tool to cut a centered line between the half-circles. These cuts are not as deep as the original outlines. Cutting them too deep can break off the outlines’ “positive” wood. Use the shallow gouge to bevel the area between the arcs of the half-circles (14). My left hand is braced against the board, and the tool pivots from the heel of my hand. Do all the arcs to the right, turn around and do all the arcs to the left. Next, use the large curved gouge to decorate the leaves (15). Make the first cut straight down into the wood; make the second cut with the tool held at an angle, creating a sort of crescent moon motif. Small punches were often used to add details to carvings. For this pattern, I used a punch made from an old cut nail with a small cross filed into its end. I strike it with a hammer, once for each spot (16). Here’s the finished carving (17).

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MAKE THE RABBET JOINTS Cut the rabbets after the carving is done. It’s best to keep the front and rear boards a little extra long, to help prevent splitting. Dress and cut the end boards to final length. Use a marking gauge to scribe the rabbets’ depth, referencing from the board’s flat face. Saw the rabbets’ shoulders with the stock braced in a wooden bench hook (18). Use a backsaw or tenon saw. Cut down to the gauge line. Holding the piece upright, either in a vise or clamped to the bench’s edge, split out the waste with a broad chisel and mallet (19). Straight-grained quartered timber usually splits cleanly and accurately. At first, position the chisel just inside the waste side of the scribed line and lightly tap the chisel with a mallet. The wood should split down to the sawn shoulder. Repeat as necessary. Lay the board face down in the bench hook and cut across the grain with a longbladed paring chisel to make the rabbet flat and even (20). (A rabbet or shoulder plane is a good alternative to using a chisel.) Take the rabbet down to the scribed line cut with the marking gauge. Both rabbets need to be in the same plane–this is one of the most critical factors in making the box. Check

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GIMMAL HINGES LIDS ON 17TH-CENTURY BOXES and chests were often hinged with iron “gimmals,” made by a blacksmith. (They’re also called snipebill or snipe hinges.) Gimmals are essentially two linked rings with split tails, like a pair of cotter pins. I’ll show you how to install them on a box. First, chop two small V-notches in the back board, one for each pair of hinges (1). I just eyeball their locations. Bore small-diameter holes at a downward angle from the back (2). I use a square-sectioned reamer to enlarge and taper the holes (3).You might be able to do this with a tapered file. You’re aiming for a tight enough fit that you need to drive the hinges in with a hammer, but not so tight that you bend the hinge or split the oak. Hammer each hinge into the box so that the ring in the box is vertical (4). If the ring sticks up above the box after you’ve driven it home, hammer it downwards, then give it another rap inwards. Spread the hinge’s legs inside the box, and clinch them back into the wood (5). To prevent the hinge from withdrawing, back it with a scrap of steel. Bend the tips of the hinge’s tails with pliers, or just knock them about with the hammer before setting them. Consistent light blows yield better results than brute force.

Place the lid upside down on the bench, position the box on it and eyeball the proper placement of the box. Scribe the location of the hinges near the rear edge of the underside of the lid; then bore holes straight through the lid, not at an angle. Ream the holes and knock the lid down onto the hinges, alternating blows to bring the lid down evenly. Test the way the hinges work, making sure the cleats clear the sides of the box and that the lid sits all the way down at the front. If all is right, spread and clinch the hinge’s tails (6).

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them with the winding sticks and make any necessary corrections. The flatness of the wood between them isn’t so critical. After finishing the rabbets, set the end board in place, with the front board face down on the bench. Mark just outside the end board, then cut the front board to length with a handsaw. Do the final trimming with a plane, after assembly, but before the bottom gets nailed on. To locate the rabbets on the inner face of the rear boards, first mark out a shoulder at one end of the rear board. Leave about 1-1/2" beyond the shoulder, to accommodate the rabbet and the pintle hinge extension. (If you are using iron hinges, make this rabbet just a bit longer than the thickness of the end board.) Next, lay the front and rear boards face down, with their bottom edges butted against each other. Line up the scribed shoulder with its counterpart on the front board. Then mark the shoulder-to-shoulder distance from the front board to the rear board (21). Position the end boards in place, then scribe against their outside surface to determine the overall length of the box’s carcass (22). If you’re making pintle hinges, cut the rabbets extra long to allow for the hinge’s round tenon (see 36). Cut the rabbets as before, saw the back board to length and whittle the tenons.

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ASSEMBLE WITH PEGS Bore three 1/4" dia. holes in each rabbet. I bore from the inside of the rabbet because it’s easier to center the holes by eye. Mark the end boards with an awl (23). (Here, I’m working on a box with different carving.) Remove the front or rear board and bore holes into the side pieces’ end grain. Make pins that are about 5" long from dry, straight-grained riven oak. I split them out with a carving knife and pare them with a broad chisel (24). They should be just the slightest bit tight in the hole and very slightly tapered along their length. Assemble the box by gluing each joint and driving in the pegs (25). A tight fit takes a shaving off the corners of the pegs (26). Trim the pegs flush with the surface using a sharp chisel with the bevel down. Don’t pare straight across the peg’s head, but come in from both sides. This eliminates tear-out as you come off the peg. WO O DWO R K

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Decorate the front corners with a row of gouge cuts (27). Work by eye and strike the gouge with the mallet.

ADD THE BOTTOM Dress the bottom board, but leave it a bit oversize. Set the box on the bottom board, flush with the rear edge. Scribe lines on the bottom board, inside and outside the box (28). Measure about 1/2" to 3/4" from the outside lines, then cut and plane the board to size. Bore pilot holes for nails to secure the bottom (29). Don’t position a hole too close to the corner joints. I use two nails in each short end and three in each long end. Using a fairly long plane, form a bevel around the bottom board (30). Plane the ends first, then the sides. Squat down and sight the bevel as you work. You’re aiming for a neat appearance, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Countersink holes for the nails by making two swiveling passes with a carving gouge (31). Set the box upside down and position the bottom. Transfer the nail holes by poking an awl through each one. Remove the bottom board and bore these holes. Nail on the bottom (32).

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ADD THE LID The lid has a thumbnail profile, but you don’t need a molding plane to make it. Mark a line around the lid to define the thumbnail’s fillet. Clamp a board on the line to guide a rabbet plane, then shave rabbets around the lid (33). Use a smooth plane to gradually form the thumbnail shape (34). This is all done by eye. Plane the end grain first, and keep the plane skewed for a smoother cut. The lid has two oak cleats nailed to its underside. Here’s the procedure if you’re using wooden pintle hinges: Make the cleats wider towards the rear and bore holes into the ends of each cleat to receive the pintle. Bore pilot holes through the cleats for nails. Lay the lid on the bench and position the box and cleats. Mark nail holes in the lid and drill them. Nail one cleat in place, clinching the tips of the nails on the upper surface of the lid (35). Slip a piece of steel under the nail head so it doesn’t back out. Slide the lid into position on the pintle, slip the next cleat in place, flip the box over, and then nail the second cleat (36).

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Studio Furniture at the Renwick Furniture historian Oscar Fitzgerald discusses his new catalog of contemporary artisan-made furniture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. BY TOM CASPAR

Tom Caspar: You've been writing about woodworking in the United States for quite a while, including the comprehensive book Four Centuries of American Furniture. How did you become acquainted with the Renwick's collection? Oscar Fitzgerald: I live across the Potomac from Washington, D. C., and the Renwick has been a favorite place to visit ever since it opened in the early 1970s. Compared to most of the other Smithsonian museums, it has a nice, cozy feel. You can actually take everything in on a single visit. The Renwick's studio furniture collection is amazing–86 pieces and growing, one of the largest collections in the country. TC: I understand that the Smithsonian didn't expressly set out to assemble a representative group of modern studio furniture. How did their collection get started?

OF: When the Renwick building became vacant after the Court of Claims moved out in the late 1960s, the government was trying to figure out what to do with it. Lloyd Herman, who worked at the Smithsonian, wrote a letter suggesting that it be turned into a gallery for traveling exhibits focusing on design. Dillon Ripley, then the head of the Smithsonian, broadened the idea to include arts and crafts as well as design and it was finally accepted. Lloyd became the first director. The museum did not intend to have a permanent collection, but people kept trying to donate stuff so finally they started accepting craft objects. The rest is history. TC: Many furnituremakers I know began their careers in the 60's and 70's, influenced by a number of earlier pioneers. You've called this vanguard "the first generation." How is this period covered at the Renwick?

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OF: The Renwick is fortunate to have a strong body of work by this first generation, including Wharton Esherick, the patriarch of the field, Tage Frid, who taught a whole generation of makers, and George Nakashima, whose work recently has gone through the ceiling on the auction market. Nakashima’s work epitomizes the philosophy of this group–an almost mystical feeling for wood. His Conoid Bench (1) features the free edge that is typical of his work. It looks simple, but think of all the decisions that went into cutting that board for the seat: length, thickness, width, angles, etc. When you see Nakashima wannabes that just don’t get it, you realize how sophisticated his work really is. TC: You've identified a number of later builders as interpreters of the first generation. What do you mean by that?


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1. George Nakashima "Conoid Bench" 1977 Walnut, hickory 31-1/8" x 84-1/2" x 35-5/8"

OF: The reverence for wood and technical skills of these first-generation artisans still resonates with many makers. You can see both of these concerns expressed in David Ebner's Stool (2). He chose beautifully figured walnut and put it together with finelycut dovetails. It’s all about wood and joinery. He’s definitely carrying on this noble tradition. Many still agree with Art Carpenter's assessment that furniture should be about fine woods and fine craftsmanship. Everything else he termed “Artiture.” TC: Studio furniture isn't entirely free from historical styles. Some builders have adapted traditional designs, haven't they? OF: There’s a whole group of cabinetmakers that like to make reproductions of historical styles and the Renwick has one or two examples in the collection. Other makers start with historical designs and update them. Take the work of Timothy

Philbrick–he started out restoring antiques and then went through the Program in Artisanry at Boston University, where he came under the influence of John Kirk, an expert in the antique-furniture world. Philbrick's Curly Cherry Cellaret (3) is loosely based on a design from Thomas Sheraton, but it has bits and pieces of other styles, like the legs, which are found on Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s work in 1920s France. TC: Some of the pieces at the Renwick seem to tell a story or comment on our culture. OF: I interviewed all of the makers represented in the collection, except, of course, the dead ones, and most of them told me that they avoid political or social commentary because they want their pieces to make a positive impression. But some of them do include personal biography in their work. This is true of Tommy Simpson, whose G. W. Cabinet recalls a childhood play he was WO O DWO R K

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in when his pants ripped. Kim Schmahmann takes a more cosmic view with Bureau of Bureaucracy (4), his take on Western Culture and his place in it. The series of flat drawers in the front hold all his important papers like his birth certificate, immigration papers and even his death certificate not yet filled in. One alcove reproduces the reading room of the Library of Congress, which he sees as symbolizing the repository of Western knowledge. Another series of drawers addresses issues in the workplace, like a glass door, top drawer, back door, etc. The bureau took him five years to complete, which I guess is not too long for a piece that purports to be a summary of all of Western culture. TC: Although wood is the primary material used in the Renwick's collection, studio furniture has certainly embraced metal and textiles as well. Why do you think wood has retained its status?


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OF: Wood is the traditional material for furniture and it is what we expect. It can be fashioned into almost any shape. It is warm and inviting to the touch and the grain pattern can be dazzling. Metal, on the other hand, is everything wood is not–cold, hard and foreboding. And that is just the reason for its attraction. I think it’s the shock value. Jim Rose made No. 56 Seven-Drawer Counter, a reproduction of a Shaker cabinet, in cold, hard steel. For Lectern, Albert Paley shaped the metal in seemingly impossible ways. When Garry Knox Bennett was asked to make a contemporary rendering of an 18th-century antique from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for an exhibit they sponsored in 1989, he made Boston Kneehole (5) out of alternate materials, including brick, aluminum and plastic laminate. It definitely achieves the shock value he intended, which is what you would expect from a man trained as a sculptor, not as a furnituremaker. TC: Natural wood, whether planed smooth or left in the rough, was revered by those firstgeneration builders. More recent artisans have experimented with color and texture. Is this trend now widely accepted? OF: Definitely. When Tom Loeser and Wendy Maruyama first started painting wood in the 1970s the first generation of makers were outraged at the desecration of the wood. But now it is accepted practice. For example, Rob Womack, the artist who did All Sound, uses furniture (found furniture–he doesn’t even make it) solely as a canvas. Most cabinetmakers don’t go that far, but they are definitely interested in brightening up brown furniture. John Eric Byers spends many more hours applying up to seven coats of paint to each little square of his furniture, such as his Hat Box Chest (6), than he does on the cabinetry. I also think that as exotic woods from the rain forest have become less PC, cabinetmakers are turning to other techniques like paint to enliven their work. TC: Although this collection is mostly functional furniture, a number of sculptural pieces are also included. Historically, hasn't American furniture often crossed this line? OF: The old art versus craft thing. It really comes down to definitions. Art is suppos-

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edly useless and craft is functional. But art does have a use, too, to provide an aesthetic pleasure. Furniture also provides aesthetic pleasure besides being functional. It is interesting to me that more and more artists are turning to furniture as a medium for their message. I think this is because furniture is so familiar and easy to relate to. It's the perfect medium for trying to convey their ideas. All the furniture in the Renwick provides visual pleasure and most of the pieces are completely functional as furniture. The most glaring exception is Wendell Castle’s Ghost Clock (7), which is all made from Honduran mahogany, including the sheet. It was actually part of a series of functional clocks, but Ghost is not a real clock. It certainly functions as an aesthetic pleasure. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood in the gallery and overheard people complain that the staff had not removed the cover from the clock. TC: While leafing through your catalog, a number of whimsical pieces just made me smile. We can relate to well-designed furniture in a number of ways, right? OF: Humor is always good. Every time I see Richard Ford’s Uncle Rick’s Wonderland I get a warm feeling. It affected his threeyear old niece that way, too, when she gave it the name. When you see Craig Nutt’s fantasies, such as Radish Salad Bowl (8), you can’t help but wonder “What was he thinking?” And I think that’s the point. He wants us to reconsider what furniture is all about. You might say, “What do vegetables have to do with furniture?” When you ask Craig that question, about all he will tell you is that he likes gardening. I’m still trying to figure it out and in the end I think they are just vege-tables. TC: In addition to stunning, full-page photographs of the collection, Studio Furniture contains a long chapter that's a gold mine of information. It's a statistical snapshot based on a questionnaire sent to all the artisans whose work is at the Renwick. What was the purpose of this research?

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OF: This essay grew out of a project I did during a Renwick Research Fellowship several years ago. When I first started getting interested in this field, I was overwhelmed to find that there are maybe 20,000 artisans making furniture on one level or another. You can’t talk about 20,000 different people, so the question was, who were the most significant? My son is a chemist and in the science field they determine the importance of research by the number of citations a paper gets. So I had one of my students, Charlene Johnson, count the number of major articles and books on each maker and from that I tabulated a list of the top most-cited makers. I interviewed them to get a snapshot of this group, asking how they were trained, where they worked, what their aesthetic influences were, shop practices, and how they marketed their goods. The essay in the catalogue does the same thing, but it focuses on the artists in the collection. You'll find a lot of interesting stories in there! The photos in this article are from STUDIO FURNITURE of the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum by Oscar P. Fitzgerald. Text and images copyright 2007 by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. STUDIO FURNITURE was published in 2008 by Fox Chapel Publishing. For more information, visit www.FoxChapelPublishing.com.


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2. David Ebner "Stool" 1974 Black walnut 16-1/2" x 15-7/8" x 14-1/8"

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3. Timothy Philbrick "Curly Cherry Cellaret" 1994 Cherry, satinwood, fossil ivory 54" x 41-1/2" x 22"

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4. Kim Schmahmann "Bureau of Bureaucracy" 1993-99 Various hardwoods, veneers, mother-of-pearl, gold leaf, brass 96" x 36" x 24"

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5. Garry Knox Bennett "Boston Kneehole" 1989 Honduran rosewood, maple, aluminum, brick, Fountainhead, ColorCore, antiqued bronze, watercolor 31-1/4" x 50-11/4" x 24"

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6. John Eric Byers "Hat Box Chest" 1999 Mahogany, milk paint 72" x 21" x 20"

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7. Wendell Castle "Ghost Clock" 1985 Honduran mahogany 86-1/4" x 24-1/2" x 15"

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8. Craig Nutt "Radish Salad Bowl" 1998 Maple, birch, tupelo 55-5/8" x 21" x 21"

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SEEING THE WORLD WITH DAVID UPFILL-BROWN BY PATRICK DOWNES • PHOTOS BY DAVID UPFILL-BROWN

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t’s impossible to fall asleep while David Upfill-Brown talks. At the very first word, you’ll cock your head like a terrier, trying for your life to figure out his accent. Born in South Africa and raised in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, David has lived across the English-speaking world, from Africa to England to Australia, and, currently, the coast of Maine. Just as the sun never set on the British Empire, it hardly sets on the path this man has taken. The sound of him speaking, by turns staccato and flowing, serious and playful, smooth and rough, contains all the places he’s ever called home. Once you’ve gotten a handle on David’s accent while listening to him at a slide show, during a lesson or in friendly conversation over lunch, you’re liable to learn something and laugh. A conversation with him will easily range from the history of furniture to poetry, from ecology to contemporary artists and makers. You’ll leave the time you spent with him amazed at the distance you’ve covered, bemused and a little jetlagged, and finally sorry it had to end. A tall man, about 6' 2", and wiry, with a strong jaw and bright blue eyes set slightly deep in their sockets, David is 60, limber, and seems fit and ready for anything. He’ll hike a local mountain, cross-country ski,

toss a Frisbee, or take out his fishing rod whenever he gets the chance. Sometimes, you may have the sense he isn’t quite where he wants to be, as if he is being kept from an appointment elsewhere. The variety of his thinking, his action and his conversation, which may seem almost impossibly charming and entertaining, really represent an internal restlessness, a constant desire to return to his work. He needs his shop, his tools, his craft. He needs to make and make and make. Everything else is a distraction. Since 2004, David has been at the helm of the Nine-Month Intensive course at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. He’ll be leaving behind the full-time teaching schedule in 2009 and return home to Australia and the necessity of doing his own work. “I miss the making,” he says. David learned the basics of woodworking from his father. A soldier who lost his leg in WWII and “a Victorian,” as David calls him, Tony Upfill-Brown was a “confident amateur,” who made built-in and stand-alone furniture, often in a Georgian style. From an early age, David acquired an appreciation of craft and of the history behind the craft. Even so, his father, hoping his son might cotton to a vocation more viable than art, sent David off to a two-year WO O DWO R K

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stint in England for better schooling. After serving the time without much success, David was hauled back to Africa, where his father imagined the discipline of army life might do him some good. He lasted a year in conscription before making his escape. He hadn’t yet guessed that his discipline would come in exactly the way his father might have wished it wouldn’t. In the late 60s, as Rhodesia pursued independence from British rule, a movement began to promote indigenous crafts produced by Africans. Because Rhodesia had large deposits of soapstone, including a form called serpentine, local stonecarving took off. Early carvers made the most of familiar cultural symbols, particularly the Zimbabwe bird, a stylized eagle, which had been used in carvings centuries earlier. Indeed, the name Zimbabwe, which Rhodesia later became after independence, comes from the name for the ancient stone city of Great Zimbabwe, completed sometime between the thirteenth and sixteenth Centuries, and now in ruins. After his release from the army and still in his early twenties, David started a business exporting traditional and contemporary native crafts from Rhodesia to South Africa via Botswana to avoid duties. Not much time passed, though, before David


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grew restless, as if to parallel the country’s growing pains. “I was selling indigenous work,” he says, “and I realized the stone carvers were having the most fun.” He took what he calls a “few weak lessons” from a carver named John Takawira and was hooked. He turned to doing carving himself. Political and cultural pressures, however, would force him to look for a better place to live and work. The persistent racial and nationalist struggles, coupled with the expanding guerilla warfare, drove him to emigrate to South Africa in 1973. Once there, David acquired a set of 12 Marples chisels and set to work. All but entirely selftaught, he carved wood and stone. Relying on the African vernacular, he carved bowls, heads, figures, anything he could sell to survive. “I had been around people working with their hands all day, every day,” David remembers. “And they’d used everything available to them, even flattened coffee cans.” What’s more, he lived for two years in a house without electricity, working the wood entirely with hand tools. This consciousness of material and means informs David’s sensibilities as a craftsperson even now. “The best way to learn the material, stone or wood, is to carve,” he says. The three years David spent in South Africa were extremely productive and educational. David’s father, recognizing his son’s deep commitment, made him a wedding gift of six tons of Rhodesian soapstone and serpentine as a gesture of respect. “I

almost used it all up,” David remarks. “There was little of that stone left.” David sold everything he made. He sold to local galleries and a community of South African craftspeople, gave interviews and showed up in articles, which increased his chances of selling more work. Out of all this carving and sculptural work came his first solo exhibition, in 1976, at the South African Association of Arts Gallery, in Cape Town. “When you put yourself out there,” says David, “be prepared to be hit down. What a good lesson. I appreciated the praise, what there was of it, but the harsh criticism hurt.” Inside this experience was a deeper lesson for him. As an artist, he resisted explaining his work. “I didn’t want to have to qualify it or defend it. I wasn’t aware of trying to say anything in my sculpture. I was producing, getting better and trying to stay alive.” When he turned to furniture, David freed himself of having to justify his work in the language of art critics. Furniture, by its inherent implication of functionality, seems to liberate the maker from having to explain it. A chair is a chair, regardless of whether or not it has symbols carved into it. And David would come to like this freedom. “The function of furniture,” he says, “gives sanction to make more.” He explored sculptural furniture as it was being carried out in the United States at that time, copying furniture he found in photographs that WO O DWO R K

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1. “Conversation Piece” Queensland silver ash and micro-suede upholstery 28” x 48” x 20” 1995 2. “Cellists’ Dining Set” Jarrah Chairs: 35” x 20” x 17” 1998 3. “Great Sea Bird” Whale bone 44” x 13” x 4” 1975 4. “Demi Lune” Queensland silver ash, jarrah 31-1/2” x 55-1/2” x 24” 1991 5. “The Swallow” Oak (former knee of sailing ship) 36” x 30” x 7” 1979

came from the pages of Fine Woodworking. Six months after his solo exhibition in Cape Town, David emigrated to England to escape the regime of Apartheid in South Africa. “England was a sanctuary from white Africa and white supremacy.” From the artist’s point of view, “it was the Old World.” To survive, he took care of houses, worked with cattle, forested, did carpentry and house restoration, and used his carv-


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ing skills for everything from making signs to restoring antiques. Much of his commission work for his furniture came from friends and family. Around this time, like so many other young furnituremakers, David stumbled on James Krenov’s A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook. “It was an epiphany,” he says. “It seemed all about lifestyle and cats. I could do without the cats; it was the lesson of the lifestyle that struck me.” Little did he know he would end up at one of the premier schools in the world for furniture craftsmanship, ready to pursue that lifestyle of freedom, production and creativity. One day in 1979, the partner of David’s aunt, Colonel Berthe Tansley-Witt, asked him, “Have you heard of John Makepeace?” Then: “Did you know he runs a school down the road?” The revelation of Makepeace’s Parnham House would change David Upfill-Brown’s life for good. “I realized I could get a relevant training,” he notes, and this meant he could get ahead faster. “I knocked on Makepeace’s door and asked him, ‘What do I have to do to come here?’” After the tests and interviews, acceptance came. Even so, David says he flipped a coin to decide whether or not he should attend. Already working hard and making a go of it, he was a free spirit who had not enjoyed school, and he worried he might chafe at the bit. Fortunately, the coin landed right side up for Parnham.

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“Parnham was all about making. It was monastic. It was expensive; I sold the family silver to help pay for it.” Unlike his classmates, David had a wife and child at home. “I was a useless father. Parnham was two very full years, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I’d get home after midnight every night.” The curriculum was separated over two years in the simplest way. The first year, the students followed the principal, a master named Robert Ingham, building a series of projects alongside him, much like an intensive apprenticeship. The second year, all the students worked at their own projects with different instructors. David saw little of Makepeace himself. “He would come around every so often, look at the student’s work, and say, ‘Too thick, too heavy, too solid.’” Still, the students visited his shop weekly and could see for themselves the cutting edge of British fine furniture. The primary reason to go to school, David suggests, is for shortcuts to knowhow and efficiency. “I was always aware of learning more,” he says of Parnham. He read books, steeping himself in the history of furniture even as he was surrounded by the contemporary designs coming out of Makepeace’s shop. He continued to learn from Fine Woodworking. One can’t learn everything, David stresses–the volume of knowledge is so enormous–but to learn in nine months or two years what it might take the self-taught a decade to figure out helps a developing maker hit the ground running. WO O DWO R K

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At Parnham, David finally realized he had become a maker. Fulfilling the projects, and then the final exhibition of student work brought it all home. Once he left school, though, he had to get back to the business of making his way and supporting a family. The desire to leave England for self-sufficiency and the search for a frontier for work–and his wife, Hermione, who refused to return to Africa–propelled David to emigrate with his family to Australia in 1982. He arrived with tools, $500, and a daughter he and his wife could still bathe in a large bucket. After settling outside Canberra into a shop with a fellow Parnham graduate, he pursued and began to receive his first public commissions. “If I could choose a perfect career, I wouldn’t include commissions,” he says. “But in the cut and thrust with a client, you push each other. Both of us learn new things.” In the end, these commissions, both public and private, set David on his way. “Government work is good.” He grins and adds, “Public commissions up the responsibility. Deadlines are deadlines.” He acquired a reputation for being fast, which, to some, is part of what defines a true master. David credits some of his opportunities with these commissions—such as the Speaker’s Chair he built for the Australian Parliament, which led to a string of parliamentary commissions throughout the Pacific–to his ability to carve, long since


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honed. He had at least one more arrow in his quiver. In addition to living and working so near the seat of government, where the public commissions could be sought, David belonged to the woodworking and crafts community of Canberra. The cameraderie and word of mouth brought a lot of work. By exhibiting with his colleagues and peers, which revealed a dedication to furthering the whole community, he could show his commissioned work, sometimes in progress, even though there was no guarantee for sales. Over his career, he has had two solo exhibitions of his furniture, including one in Australia in 1988, and has been part of more than thirty-five group exhibitions all over the world. From 1985 to 1993, together with Hermione, David managed the Canberra agency for an Australian lumber company, selling around eighty species of Australian and international furniture timbers. “I’ve always tried to get a grip on the character-

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istics of different wood species, particularly the local ones,” he says. “Imagine having roughly 36,000 board feet out back. When I stacked the new stock, I picked out the best boards for myself. I’d kid my customers that they were buying second-hand timber.” One last, meaningful element to David’s public persona as a maker is his teaching. Since 1985, he has taught off and on and developed his style in venues ranging from the Canberra Institute of the Arts to more career-oriented schools, such as the Australian School of Fine Furniture, where he served as academic director and principal. He credits his continually evolving sense of design to his students over a quarter-century. And what of David’s own sensibilities in the shop? “I abhor the dreaded right angle. So my work involves a lot of curves. I shape by bandsaw and finish by hand, and I still carve when I can. Sometimes, I think I laminate too much.” His work is deeply informed by what George Ingham, the brother of his old WO O DWO R K

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6. “Three Sisters” Silver birch, birds-eye maple, leather 3-5/16” x 6” radius 2005 7. “Pair of Chair” Jarrah, silk upholstery 30” x 26” x 20” 1988 8. “Chaise Lounge” Australian cedar, white beech, velvet upholstery, gold and sliver leaf, paint 26” x 84” x 24” 1989 9. “Jardiniere” Queensland maple 48” x 15” x 15” 1988


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ON TEACHING By David Upfill-Brown WHEN I ENROLLED AT PARNHAM HOUSE in Dorset, England, in 1979, I’d had blessed little experience with good schooling. Though the brainchild of John Makepeace, Parnham’s principal was Robert Ingham, a man who seemed to me wrought to total honesty by his work. The intense first year of training at Parnham hinged on Ingham’s project-based curriculum. Over that year, students built eight or so set projects, which Ingham designed annually to serve as progressive learning exercises.The students didn’t interpret his models; this wasn’t independent, egodriven experience. Instead, the students built each project with Ingham exactly as he intended it to be built. I was in the third group of students at Parnham, and Ingham’s method was finely honed by the time I began. It was a blissful kindergarten, where the logic and techniques were fully demonstrated, sometimes once and sometimes five times a day. I believe Ingham was appreciated by every one of his nearly 200 students over 20 years. The second year of independent projects, with six visiting instructors, developed from the first year of close technical apprenticeship. Students could explore the limitless possibilities of furnituremaking based on tradition and attention to method. It was at Parnham that I recognized, maybe for the first time, the give and take between students and instructors, and how much the group of students had to offer.The flow of ideas through a classroom is one of the prime benefits of my teaching now. Not long after leaving Parnham House, I emigrated to Australia, where I joined a workshop alongside another young maker at Cuppacumbalong Craft Center, a few miles south of Canberra, on the Murrumbidgee River. As intended, I took what I’d learned at school and got to work for myself. I had no immediate thought of passing on the wisdom in any other way than through my furniture. But fate intervened. I worked for years, building anything and everything I could. Finally, in 1985, George Ingham, Robert’s brother and a former second-year teacher at Parnham, called at the shop. George, by this time, had been two years at establishing

the Wood Studio of the Canberra School of Art. George was not a large man. Even so, he hooked his finger under my collar and dragged me outside. “David,” he said, “I would like you to come and teach at the school.You are becoming a hermit and you need to get out more.” After a shor t time teaching twice-weekly night classes to motivated vocational students, I was asked to teach project-based classes in the school’s degree and diploma programs – six full weeks on chairs, lamination or veneering. I did this for nearly eight years, teaching one or two sessions a year. What I discovered from these classroom workshops is that learning is one of the pluses of teaching.There’s no getting around it, every class has mature and immature students. Group dynamics are mysterious but controllable. Generosity and careful, almost trick-full, cajoling reap rewards, encouraging the discouraged and taming the rogue. The ‘realm of ideas’ in a brainstorming session advances design solutions for all.The inclusion of women in a group pushes the design potential of that class. Every student has a voice and ability, however confused or unconfident. Large egos can, unless carefully handled, damage the dynamic, usually by fraying tempers. And, importantly, the group teaches itself – colleagues inevitably learn from one another. My greatest pleasure comes while watching

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the students work, seeing their confidence grow. Working with wood, possibly the most intractable medium, even leads some to discover something deep within themselves, perhaps a primal connection to those who fashioned the first tools. For many students, the craft generates a powerful physical, practical and emotional intelligence. They become something like dancers or athletes, individuals whose minds speak through their bodies. These were the lessons I picked up from my students, but I also gained insight into teaching from fellow instructors across the art school. One such bit of wisdom revolves around criticism. It can’t be overestimated how well-crafted, constructive criticism can encourage a student, and how needless and damaging negative criticism may become obstacles to a student’s learning. Criticism requires honesty, yes, and also tact and grace. I have taught for nearly 25 years, from mainland Australia to Tasmania to–the past five years–coastal Maine, at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. Now I must get back to my own shop, leaving the classroom hoping I have given more than I have taken. I thank George Ingham ever y day for pulling me from the shop into teaching. Without the cross-pollination and exploration, I would not only be a lesser maker, but a lesser man.


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Parnham principal, a onetime teacher himself, and one who pushed and encouraged David to teach, called “species-specific design,” which means using the right wood for the task, seeking what mid-century sculptors meant by “truth to material.” His sensitivity to the nature and behavior of various woods comes from his long history as a carver, working the material with hand tools. “Very few of my pieces are satisfactory to me,” says David. “Some might be pretentious. Or they might be mundane, done just for payment.” He feels as if his true ambition, to find a purity of form in his work, has not been fulfilled. Still, he adheres to that ambition. Relying on the history of furniture, the lineage, which

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many makers choose to uphold in some way, and his own sense of tribal, ethnic and local vernacular, his work often crosses boundaries. It seems very nearly sculptural, without the baggage of being defined as such, since it is functional. As he gets nearer to the time when he will be working again for himself and leaving his teaching to just part of the year, David looks forward to making pieces for himself. After a life of selling nearly everything he has made over thirty-five years, he says he doesn’t care if what he makes in the future sells. “I love the making, and I want to come up with pleasing objects.” Then, with a smile, he adds, “I’m beginning to think of myself as a bloody artist.”

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10. “Amatory Chairs” Cherry, leather upholstery 30” x 28” x 19” 2006 11. “A Dry White Season” Queensland silver ash 34” x 65” x 18” 1986 12. “Ceremonial Chairs” Queensland silver ash, leather upholstery 52” x 24” x22” 1987 13. “Music Stand” Queensland walnut 64” x 26” x 18” 1984


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SHOPMADE HANDSCREWS Thread your own wooden screws BY STEVEN BUNN

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ven though I have a small fortune invested in tools, I always seem to be short of wooden handscrew clamps. But daydreaming about buying ten more of these versatile tools runs smack into the reality that such a purchase requires spending anywhere from $200 to $450, depending on the size of clamp. Ouch! Several years ago, I resolved to satisfy my need for clamps by making my own, using

the chunks of this and that from my scrap pile, which waxes and wanes with the seasons. In September, this pile spills out across the shop floor, but by late December, the frigid Maine weather has reduced it to nothing. Until spring, the morning race to get some heat in the shop becomes a little like the Mississippi River steamboat races of the 1800s, the crew dismantling cabins and upper decks to provide fuel for the roaring WO O DWO R K

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boilers. So, my rule of thumb is to make clamps before the heating season starts. The first batch of clamps that I made were similar to Jorgensen handscrews, except for having wooden screws. I turned maple and ash on my lathe to make my own wooden screws, and threaded them with a screw box. The resulting clamps worked well, with one important exception: They were a bear to adjust; cranking them open


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and shut was laborious. When a tricky glueup was writhing on the bench like a crazed anaconda, and speed was of the essence, these clamps wouldn’t do. Then, while flipping through a book I purchased at a flea market, I spied two wooden clamps in a photograph taken at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. These clamps were similar to the ones I had made, with a crucial difference. Where both screws on my early clamps threaded completely through the opposing jaw, the Sturbridge examples had one screw that passed through the threads and one that seated in a stopped hole. Both screws were secured to this jaw with garters. So as the screws turned, they either forced the jaws open or pulled them closed. Shouting the (unprintable) Maine equivalent of “Eureka,” I rushed to the shop to build a prototype. There must be an unwritten rule sacred to cabinetmakers (at least to me, anyway), that the paying work isn’t nearly as interesting as the harebrained schemes that we invent. Several hours later, I held in my hands a clamp which effortlessly twirled open and shut. Here’s how to make your own wooden handscrews, like the one I devised.

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pointing outwards (3). This ensures that the drilled holes will be equidistant from the fence in each block, so that the holes— and the jaws—will be coplanar when the clamps are assembled. If you’re making a batch of handscrews, now is the time to clamp a temporary stop block to the fence, to ensure that holes are drilled consistently in each set of blocks. Place the left jaw blank on the table, against the fence. Bring the bit down and align its point with the mark that’s nearest the block’s top end. Clamp the stop block behind the jaw block.

EDITOR: TIM JOHNSON; TECH ART BY FRANK ROHRBACH; PHOTOS BY ALEXANDER BUNN

MAKE THE JAWS I usually make these clamps in batches. Start by milling and sawing kiln dried stock for the jaws. The dimensions for each jaw block are 1-3/8" wide on the clamping face, 1-1/2" inches thick, and 9" long. Arrange the blocks in pairs and mark the outer side or cheek of each pair with a triangle that points to the mouth of the clamp (1). Open each pair of blocks to their clamping faces and mark two points on one, 1-1/4" and 41/2" from the back end. Hold the blocks together, with their ends flush, and use a square to strike lines across both faces, running through the points you’ve marked. Mark the center of each line to locate the screw holes. Then label the diameters and indicate whether the holes go through or are stopped (2). Taking this step avoids confusion if you make these clamps in multiples. Also, mark the jaw faces “left” and “right” and “top” and “bottom.” Chuck a 5/8" brad point bit into your drill press and position a fence so the bit’s point lines up with the center points you’ve marked on the jaw block. Always keep the marked cheeks of each pair of jaw blocks WO O DWO R K

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Drill a 5/8" hole completely through the block. This will become the threaded hole for the top screw. After drilling matching holes in all your remaining left jaw blocks, reset the stop block and drill the second (lower) hole in each left block. Remove the stop block and reset the depth stop to drill the 5/8" x 1" deep stopped hole in each right jaw block. Place the right jaw, clamping-face up and marked cheek out, against the fence, with the brad point centered on the location of the top hole. Install the stop block and drill the 1" deep hole. Do the same for any other right


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jaw blocks. Install a 3/4" brad point bit, reposition the stop block and drill a 3/4" inch hole completely through the jaw block at the location of the lower screw. You should now have left jaws with two through 5/8" holes and right jaws with one stopped 5/8" hole, and one 3/4" through hole (4). Clamp each left jaw block clamping-face up in your bench’s shoulder vise. Then, using a 3/4" tap, carefully tap both 5/8" holes (5) to accept the 3/4" dia. screws you will make next. A 3/4" woodthreading kit (tap and thread box) is available from Woodcraft (#12T14). Note: I start with 5/8" dia. holes, because the root diameter of my tap is 19/32". The holes’ additional 1/32" dia. make it easier to get the cutter started. Check your tap’s root diameter and adjust the size of the starter holes you drill, if necessary. Cut the angled face on the outside corners of each pair of jaw blocks to form the clamp’s mouth (6). Clean up the angled

cuts with a disc or belt sander. Finish the jaws by easing the outside edges with a 45° chamfer router bit.

TURN THE SCREWS I have lots of split-off pieces of green maple and ash lying around, because I primarily make Windsor chairs. I turn my screws from this leftover material, because it turns and threads easily. I split out 1-3/8" to 1-1/2" square billets, trim them to 16" lengths and turn them on my lathe to 11/8" dia. Then I mark out the handle, allowing for some waste on the end. My handles are based on the profile of the handles on a set of chisels of which I am particularly fond (7). Personalize your clamps by turning the shape of your handle as you wish. Turn the remainder of the shaft to 3/4" dia. I have always found it best to turn my screw shafts slightly undersize at this stage. Whether or not my calipers are slightly out of sync with my drill bits (and every other blessed thing), WO O DWO R K

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it is a fact that a shaft that’s turned too large will bind when its fed into a screw box. So don’t get fixated on being overly precise (see “Performance vs. Art," page 71). Mark out and cut the grooves in the screws that will engage the garters in the jaws when the clamp is assembled. Notice that these grooves are located at opposite ends of the two screws. On the lower screw (the one that installs nearest the jaw mouth), the groove is located near the handle (8). On the top screw, the slot is on the opposite end. I turn the end of this screw down to just under 5/8" dia., and then cut the garter groove. This section should be a little longer than 1", to allow for trimming.

THREAD THE SCREWS Cutting the threads is a simple process, because green wood works so easily. Clamp the screw in your bench’s shoulder vise, shaft up. This frees up both hands to turn the screw box. The box’s guide (or


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starter) block keeps the shaft aligned with the thread cutter as you start to feed the work into the tool. The threads on the bottom screw run from its tip to the flat section that precedes the garter groove (9). The top screw threads start beyond the garter section on the end and extend all the way to the handle (10). The screw box’s guide block will bottom out against the handle before the last threads can be cut; the block must be removed to finish the job. First, back the screw box off the threaded portion of the shaft. Then unscrew its guide block. Removing this block exposes the Vcutter that actually cuts the threads. Take the partially-threaded screw out of the vise and rethread it into the screw box: Carefully turn the screw by hand, until its threads engage the screw box’s threaded body. Then turn the screw box like a nut to move it down the threaded shaft. The exposed V-cutter will engage the final unthreaded section and cut threads very close to the handle before it

bottoms out (11). Before you try out your newly threaded screws, set them aside for a week to dry out. They will shrink enough in diameter to turn easily in the threaded jaws. If you are working with kiln dried stock, you don’t have to wait, but you may have to run the threads back and forth through the screw box several times, and do the same with the tapped jaws, to get a looser fit (see “Kiln Dried Screws, page 71). Loose is good. Remember that threads are really spiral wedges, so they tighten as they close. A loose fit allows the clamps to twirl easily when you are adjusting them.

ASSEMBLY Make sure the non-threaded 3/4" and 5/8" dia. portions of the screws fit smoothly in the appropriate holes drilled in the jaws. Resize the shafts, if necessary. Test fit both screws to ensure that the two jaws will seat tightly together when closed (12). First, seat WO O DWO R K

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the 5/8" end of the top screw into its stopped hole in the jaw. Then trim the end, if necessary, until the threads seat against the jaw’s clamping face. Next, test the nonthreaded portion of the lower screw in its 3/4" dia. hole. The threads should extend slightly into the jaw’s body. If necessary, take another turn with the screw box. But be careful not to cut the threads too close to the garter grooves. (Clamping puts pressure against the garters, which in turn put a lot of pressure on the garter groove shoulders—they can break out if there isn’t enough heft between the threads and groove.) Complete the screws by trimming the waste off the end of the handles. Mark the location of the garters for both holes in the right jaw. The best way to do this is to lay each screw in place on the jaw and tick off the garter locations with a pencil (13). I drill 3/16" x 1" deep holes (14), being careful that they are far enough apart so that the garters (3/16" square pins that


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are driven in) don’t rub or bind the screw shaft as it turns. I aim for the garters to protrude 1/16" to 3/32". Any less, and the screw grinds the garter to dust and runs over it. Any more, and the shaft binds when the screw is turned. When I have an overly tight garter, I have two choices: keep working the screw back and forth until the garter and

screw wear in, or be patient and wait until the green screw shrinks a bit more. Make the 3/16"-square garter pins out of any available hardwood. I cut mine about 1-1/2" inches long. Thread both screws onto the jaws and seat both garter sections. Then drive the garter pins into the round holes and trim them flush. Finally, clamp the WO O DWO R K

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assembled handscrew on your workbench and belt sand both sides until the jaws are flush. This removes any misalignment introduced when the holes in the jaws were machined at the start of the project. Once you have made one handscrew, you can use the same technique to create them in any size. The process is the same.


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PERFORMANCE VS. ART FIRST AND FOREMOST, these clamps are tools which I expect to put to hard use in my shop. I have gotten to the point where I no longer sand the screw handles, or do more to the assembled clamps than give them a quick pass or two with a beltsander to flush up the sides of the jaws when the clamp is closed. I find that the turning-tool marks, left unsanded on the handles, add to their “grippyness.” I also don’t worry about wane, small checks or other defects in my handles, because the screw doesn’t have to be visually perfect to work. In the same vein, small chip-outs in the wooden threads are acceptable, because a screw thread is, in reality, an inclined plane. Even with small chip-outs, there is still a lot of bearing surface between the male and female threads of the screw and jaw. Only if a number of adjacent rows of threads are chipped out or broken off is the screw ruined.

KILN DRIED SCREWS GREEN WOOD cuts like a dream, but dry stock can be both tough and brittle. Threads can chip off if the wood is really dry. If you use kiln-dried material for screws you can (1) either run the threaded tap back and forth through the threaded jaw while applying side pressure, to help open up the width of the threaded opening, or (2) carefully adjust the depth of the V-cutter in the thread box itself, so it cuts deeper while threading. Another option is to liberally wipe the screw shaft with turpentine before you cut the threads—I’ve found that wetting the wood this way helps the screw box cut more cleanly.

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A HIGH SCHOOL FOR BOATBUILDERS SWEDEN’S STENSUND FOLKHOGSKOLA

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s director of Country Workshops, a small crafts school focused on traditional woodworking, I have enjoyed organizing an annual international craft tour. Since 1991, we have visited Sweden, England, Switzerland, and Japan. I organize each tour with someone well versed in the regional crafts and local culture of the country we visit. During these

tours, we take a small group off the beaten path to meet skilled craftspeople. Although we mainly visit woodworkers, we also see artisans such as potters, blacksmiths, and basket makers. We stay in B&B’s, church conference centers, and local pensions. When we repeat a tour, we build on the best of previous tours by adding exciting new visits to our itinerary. Through these tours WO O DWO R K

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I have developed outstanding contacts and enduring friendships. I’m interested in the construction of traditional wooden boats, so I am always looking for boatbuilding schools. I have found several in Sweden, where Jogge Sundqvist and I have led five craft tours. One of the most interesting schools is Stensund Folkhogskola, loosely translated as Stensund

EDITOR: TIM JOHNSON

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY DREW LANGSNER


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Folk High School. ‘High school’ in this context is nothing like the American institution with the same name. These Folk High Schools in Scandinavia were started in the late 1800s as places for rural adults to learn practical new skills, such as advanced farming methods and crafts that would potentially provide income during the winter months. Folk high schools started in Sweden, but soon spread to Norway, Denmark, and Finland. During the 20th century, these typically residential schools evolved to include courses unrelated to crafts or farming. For instance, in addition to the traditional boatbuilding program, Stensund has courses in social services such as drug abuse counseling, preparation for the Swedish Police Academy, and outdoor education. Students

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can be any age, though most are young adults. Although tuition is free—even for foreigners—students must live on campus and pay room and board. Enrollment for a one-year course begins in August and ends in May. At some schools, including Stensund’s boatbuilding school, students can return for a second year of advanced study. All courses are in Swedish, so language emersion is part of the experience. In addition to teaching specific subjects, the folk high schools share a holistic teaching philosophy. They view students both as individuals and members of society; they offer both hands-on and academic programs. Students share meals, workdays, and maintenance of buildings and grounds. All students live on campus during the class week. There is no formal final exam or WO O DWO R K

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degree awarded at the completion of these programs. Learning by doing is the basis of each course. Sloyd, the magic word borne of this educational movement, means not only skilled mechanical work such as boatbuilding, but also refers to the mental and physical development that learning such a craft encourages. Preben Moller, Stensund’s master boatbuilder and teacher (1), explains, “The most central goal is that each student will have a good life. The boatbuilding is secondary.” But then he adds, “Of course if a student becomes a boatbuilder I will be very happy.” Stensund is located about an hour south of Stockholm on an old estate built by a wealthy businessman in the early 20th century. The main structure (2), an impressive


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formal mansion, offers a stunning view of the Swedish archipelago (3). Several small docks with wooden boats made by the students line the shore (4), where a wood-fired sauna house sits on the narrowest possible rocky peninsula—inviting the brave to dip directly into the cold Baltic Sea. This coastline is a wondrous archipelago with thousands of low islands rising from shallow waters. Because the entrance to the Baltic Sea between Denmark and the southeastern tip of Sweden is narrow, this body of water has scant tides. Prevailing winds stir the only waves, resulting in placid water during periods of calm weather. Myriad islands, some forested, others bare—and all very rocky—dot the waters. Wild swans swim among the many boats, including wooden sailboats, which line the town marinas at small private docks. A museum housing the school’s collection of old wooden boats sits on the shore (5). Getting boats for the collection is easy—almost every week someone calls the school with an old boat to donate. Until

recently, boats and boatbuilding played a large role in the economy and social life of this area since well before Viking times, as both professionals and farmers made boats. These mainly small craft were typically open, with no deck, cabin, or enclosed hold. Most were rowed, although some had modest sailing rigs. The real action at Stensund happens in the boatbuilding shop, where several boats lie in various stages of completion (6). These boats are based on designs from the 1800s through the early 1900s, although they share characteristics of much older craft, dating to Viking watercraft. The designs, which evolved over centuries, are a perfect expression of form following function. The beautiful, fluid lines of a wooden boat are the result of what one can make with wooden planks and very basic hand tools. Almost all are lapstrake construction—overlapped horizontal planking riveted to naturally curved vertical wooden frames. These boats are mostly made from local pine and oak timbers. In the recent WO O DWO R K

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past, it was common to use homegrown flax for sails and locally produced ropes and hardware. These small boats, ranging from about eight to twenty feet, are protected with a tar and flaxseed oil finish. Some of the second year students work on restoration projects such as rebuilding the small engines in these boats. Fifty-seven year old Moller gives the immediate impression of someone wholly dedicated to his work (7). He made his first boat when he was just fourteen years old. Before coming to teach at Stensund, he taught woodworking for eight years at a Waldorf school in nearby Jarna. He was invited to start the woodworking program at Stensund in 1993 and he embodies the folk school tradition. “I must also develop in order to see my students grow, to be so engaged that I’m here the first thing every morning. Teaching is learning,” he insists. Moller’s students come from many backgrounds. He explains that, “Many cooks have come to the boat shop. Food must be beautiful. You have to think about


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the ingredients. Boatbuilding is the same.” He goes on to say that his students could be “artists, computer people, drug addicts, nice girls from high school, carpenters, anyone.” Although most of his students are young, Moller observes, “The older students appreciate everything and work the hardest.” Sixteen students are accepted for each school year; those wanting to attend a second year are accepted first. Since Stensund sits at the same latitude as southern Greenland, Moller tells how the program is closely linked to the seasons of the far north. The group first assembles in mid-August for a ten day sailing and camping trip. At this time, everyone gets acquainted and learns to work as a team. At 6:30 a.m., the group wakes to clean

camp and prepare breakfast. Boating takes up most of the daylight hours. Every night, two students take a full hour to tell their life stories. After the camping trip, the days quickly get darker and colder. (I’ve been lucky to visit Sweden three times in October and each time enjoyed warm, sunny days.) The students are divided into teams of three; each team will make a small boat from start to finish. After studying plans, key construction details are lofted (drawn) full size on the shop floor. Lofting is very important in boatbuilding because almost every component of the boat is curved, with varying angled sides or ends. Accurate measurements come only from the full-scale drawings. Molds, which represent the cross-secWO O DWO R K

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tion of the boat at various stations along the length, are taken from the lofting and made of inexpensive plywood. Boatbuilders usually make each component and attach it to the structure as work progresses; the boat takes shape throughout this process. This is unlike other kinds of woodworking, where woodworkers make many parts and then fit them together in a single session. Construction begins by building the keel, bow stem, and transom (8). This is by far the most difficult part of a wooden boat to make, and it has to be well done. The rabbet (a twosided groove of continually varying angles) accepts the planking on each side of the stem and keel (9). When this backbone is complete, the molds are carefully tacked into place using thin longitudinal strips (10). Next the planking, which begins at the keel and works upwards to the gunnels (the rim of the hull), is installed. On most of these boats, the actual structural ribs will be made and attached after the planking is complete, whereas in other boatbuilding traditions, heavier ribs are fitted before fastening the planking. Planking begins with the lowest boards, called garboards. Each garboard consists of two planks scarfed together to make a length that will fit perfectly from stem to stern. The ends and lower side of the garboards are given a continuously variable bevel that will bed against the rabbet in the stem, keel, and transom. The garboards must be twisted into position, and then clamped into place for securing with cop-


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per nails. Each plank is bent by limbering with a heat gun, and then brushed with raw linseed oil on all surfaces. The joints are also caulked and bedded with a mixture of wool and tar. It takes a team of three students a full month to make and attach these two planks. While easier to make, the second set of over-lapped planks still takes three weeks to complete. Successive planks are secured with copper rivets. In October, when the garboards are complete, the students travel to Denmark where they learn to make rope from natural fibers (11). When classes resume after a Christmas break, the cold winter weather keeps everyone focused in the shop. Students see the boats “grow” as each plank is made and installed. In mid-February, the students scatter to spend one week with a professional boatbuilder. Light starts returning in March as the boats take shape and excitement builds. The planking is now finished and the students take another weeklong excursion to Sweden’s Åland Island for sail making. Upon returning, students focus on installing the internal structural ribs that support the boats’ planking. The ribs on this type of boat are made from naturally curved branches, or they are steam-bent from sawn planking. Fitting ribs to the curved hull interior is tricky. The gunnel (the hull rim) is re-enforced with riveted

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oak strips called inwales and outwales. Thwarts, or cross planks which provide seating and re-enforcement for the hull shape, are made and fitted. Finally, the molds are removed. The students make the mast and spars next. The mast step is a special bracket that holds the mast in place. These boats typically have a sprit-rig, a short mast and a light diagonal spar (the sprit), which is

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lashed near the base of the mast and at the far upper corner of the four-sided sail. Sometimes there is a small jib held in place with handmade rope. The rudder and tiller require careful fitting and custom hardware—as do the complex oars. Many students must collaborate to craft these special parts. Finally, the boats are finished with about nine coats of pigment mixed with boiled linseed oil. Moller says, “You must use your eyes. That is the most important thing to do. The boat must be beautiful.” At the end of the school year, Stensund alumni return to help complete the boats. The students work late into the night, striving to do their best work—the details seem to take forever! At last, launching day arrives in May, when families and friends come to see—and try—the boats in the beautiful archipelago (12). Students fine tune the rigs and make necessary corrections during the final week of school. The boats are then sold to help finance the school. Moller declares, “The world is now richer with beautiful boats” (13). Contact information Stensund Folkhogskola 619 91 Trosa, Sweden web: www.stensund.se e-mail: info@stensund.se phone (from US) 011 46 156 53200

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FURNITURE PLANS FULL SIZE FURNITURE LAYOUTS Drawn By: Philip Lowe. Catalog $3 (978-922-0615) 116 Walter Street, Beverly, MA 01915. www. furnituremakingclasses.com

TOOLS & ACCESSORIES barry@barrygordon.com www.barrygordon.com

Penland Wood

09 Summer Workshops Woodturning

Summer Workshops One and Two Weeks

May 24 – August 29, 2009 Topics include furniture, sculpture, design, upholstery, hand tool skills, fly rods

Instructors: Brian Boggs, Lewis Cahill, Critz Campbell, Thomas Hucker, Katherine Ortega, Jere Osgood, Julie Scheu Complete information online or call for a catalog.

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828-765-2359

Warren Carpenter Nick Cook David Ellsworth & Michael Mocho Jean-Francois Escoulen Beth Ireland Jerry Kermode Art Liestman Binh Pho Joe Ruminski Avelino Samuel Mark St. Leger

Quality hand tools and accessories

www.dlws.com Toll Free 1-877-208-4298

Woodworking Hunt Clark Jenna Goldberg Garrett Hack Tim Hintz Paul Sasso Travis Townsend Kim Winkle

Pete Niederberger Used and Antique Tools Parts for Same

assistantships • work study • scholarships • residencies

556 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

865-436-5860 arrowmont.org WOODWORK

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di legno woodshop supply

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Now a few highly tuned Stanley Bench Planes 415-924-8403 (after 6:00 pm PST) pniederber@aol.com ALWAYS BUYING  ALWAYS SELLING

SPRING 2009

1/20/09 3:35:30 PM


HARDWOODS/VENEER

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HARDWOOD FLOORING Burls Blocks Veneers Decking Flooring Plywood Call for our FREE Lumber Catalog! Millwork Mouldings

A&M Wood Specialty.............................39 2211 N.W. St. Helens Road Portland, Oregon 97210 (503) 274-1271 FAX (503) 274-9839

ANY Length ANY Width ANY Specie

Rare & Exotic Woods • In logs, planks & squares • Over 50 species in stock • In boards, blocks & logs • Custom milling available

www.gilmerwood.com

Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts......80 Barry Gordon Design.............................80 Center for Essential Education..............80 Center for Furniture Craftsmanship......33 College of Redwoods..............................80 Diefenbacher Tools................................80 Dilengo.................................................80 Dimitrios Klitsas Studio........................81

ASK FOR

FREE

CATALOG!

256 Ferris Avenue, White Plains, NY 10603 Phone: (914®Ê™{ȇ{£££ÊUÊ>Ý\Ê(914) 946-3779

RAVEN FARM RECYCLED WOODWORKS Furniture grade domestic hardwood and moulding. 4/4 to 8/4 quartersawn, bookmatched, and flitches. FedEx Ground, reasonable shipping nationwide. www.Ravenfarm.com

Epilog Laser...........................................33 Furniture Institute of Massachusetts....80 Gilmer Wood Co. ...................................81 Goby Walnut Products...........................81 JDS........................................................83

Wide lumber – 4/4 through 16/4 Turning – Carving Stock – Gunstocks – Veneer Web Site www.gobywalnut.com

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INDEX TO ADVERTISERS

Lignomat USA, Ltd. ..............................39

Mon-Fri: 7-4 Sat: 9-4 (503) 477-6744 Phone (503) 477-6747 Fax

M.L. Condon..........................................81 Newton Woods.......................................81 Nora Hall Carving Designs....................81 Oneida Air Systems.................................02 Penland School......................................80 Pete Niederberger...................................80 Philip Lowe............................................80 Raven Farm Sawmill.............................81 WOODCARVING CLASSES LEARN WOODCARVING Learn the skills to become a woodcarver with a European Master, Dimitrios Klitsas. From basic to advanced levels. Visit our website for more information and dates. www.klitsas.com. Contact Dimitrios Klitsas Studio, 378 North Road, Hampden, MA 01036. (413) 566-5301. Fax (413) 566-5307.

European Woodcarving

Tools for Wkg. Wood..............................33 Veneer Technologies..............................19 White Mountain Design.........................80 WoodMizer Products, Inc. .....................33 Woodworkers Source.............................81

For Classified & Small Space Advertising Information

Instruction & Supplies Contact:

Susan Tauster 4974 Fresno St • Box 596 Fresno CA 93726 Ph: 559-277-8456 • Fax: 559-277-2456 web: www.walnutwoods.net Email: calfbman@gmail.com

Visit our Website for Upcoming Classes, Tips and Specials

www.norahall.com 970.870.0116

WOODWORK

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call: (630) 858-1558 or email: stauster@americanwoodworker.com

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LOOKING BACK

The Adventure of the Pilgrim's Chair S

ometime in the haze of the 1970s, Armand LaMontagne, a wood sculptor from Rhode Island, sought revenge against the museum world. He had been rebuffed by curators when he questioned the authenticity of some antique furniture, so he set out to vividly demonstrate the experts’ gullibility. Armand painstakingly built a close copy of an extremely rare 17th-century medieval-style turned chair, as would have been made in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, using green wood and period techniques. He tortured the chair to appear as old as the rocks of New England, placed it on the porch of a rural house fronting a road often travelled by a well-known antique dealer, and laid in wait. Sure enough, his prey bought the chair for a song. It passed through a number of other dealers’ hands before being purchased for a hefty sum by the Henry Ford Musem, where it was proudly displayed for four years as a genuine relic of the Pilgrim Century. LaMontagne then pulled his trump card: claiming that he had faked the

entire chair (which the curators roundly dismissed), he challenged them to x-ray the holes that received the spindles. A 17th-century joiner would have used a spoon bit, but the x-ray revealed that these holes had clearly been bored by a modern drill bit. LaMontagne's skill had fooled the experts. This story, and many more, are pleasantly recounted in one of my favorite books on the history of furnituremaking: Fake, Fraud, Or Genuine?, by Myrna Kaye (Little, Brown and Company, 1987). Written for the non-woodworker as a series of detective story whodunits, Kaye delves deep into the arcane world of how furniture was made years ago, and how a few clever artisans have tried to make a buck by trickery and fakery. It’s a sideways introduction to the rich history of our craft, and an immensely enjoyable read. As in a classic Sherlock Holmes story (of which I'm a big fan), the author presents detailed, factual clues and a carefully reasoned analysis to determine whether a supposed antique is what it seems to be or an imposter. As a young apprentice, I cut my eyeteeth repairing old American, English and French furniture. I learned how to build–and how not to build–by closely studying these survivors. Each day I was brought face-to-face with an anonymous builder from the past, and each day I grew to respect their talents and recognize their limitations.

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FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE HENRY FORD

BY TOM CASPAR

Studying the fate of old pieces can be a real eye-opener. Some succeeded, but many did not. Whether you're building period reproductions or the most avant-garde pieces, the same enduring principles apply if you want your work to be used and to last. Fake, Fraud, or Genuine? would have cleared up a lot of mysteries for me about those antiques, though. It's an indispensable guide to anyone who wants to learn from those who have gone before.


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T he sensuous furniture and sculpture of Mark Levin are the products of more than thirty years’ mastery of the process of stack-laminated carving. The technique was explored by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi in the 1940s and put Wendell Castle’s furniture on the map in the 1960s. Levin, working in the studio he built just outside Santa Fe, is continuing the tradition with pieces like Sun Valley Leaf Table, shown here, using stack lamination to sculpt works that are delicately lyrical, sexy, and voluptuous. “My work,” says Mark Levin, “is an instinctual response to both natural and man-made forms that I find pleasing, from nuances of the forms of women, fruit, flowers, leaves, and butterflies to the shapes of automobiles, machinery and architecture. I start by delineating a

silhouette, visualizing the piece initially not in wood but rather in a black, monolithic material. If the form has a visual impact in this black dress it will be that much more alluring fleshed out in wood.” Levin works primarily in cherry, maple, walnut, and mahogany. Stack-lamination is incredibly labor-intensive. It requires careful machining of mating surfaces, gallons of glue, forests of clamps, and serious protection from the dust storms of grinders and sanders; but for Levin, the results reward all the wear and tear on his tools and his body. His furniture has garnered numerous awards and is regularly exhibited at the country’s most prestigious shows, most recently at SOFA Chicago. To see more of his work, look at his website, www.marklevin.com. —Glenn Gordon

Woodwork Magazine  

Woodwork Magazine Spring 2009 Issue

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