Month: August 2012

A taste of Fall

Fall is a distant memory that is being reintroduced here in the North County, it’s a ways off but there are some signs that we have made it through the worst of this summer. I think August is my new favorite month, the days heat relents a bit but it still feels like summer, the water is warm and the fishing great and some of the trees start there long slow transformation of loosing leaves that, with some of the vegetables and flowers coming out of the garden, make me think of fall. If your garden floweth over like so many do this time of year check out Louise Langsner’s blog for some delicious ways to use those fruits of our labor. Soups are great fun you can eat them hot or cold.

And while your surfing Peter has some books, some spoons and some tools- some that I have used -to check out on his page. Jenni took great care of these tools they are workers not shelf tools and all have been tuned to bring out the best in them.I’ve been kinda stuck on this shape of bowl, I don’t know why but when I start a bowl lately it end’s up like this………… it pleases me. This one is Walnut, some may say you shouldn’t use walnut for wooden wear because of the tannin, I think if you ate the bowl you’d have some issues but to eat salad, bread or snacks out of it is perfectly safe. These make great gifts, I have given and sold many as wedding gifts, this seems to be wedding season.

I have three for sale 90$ each plus whatever shipping email me if your interested [email protected] .Two are Cherry and one is Walnut, they are made from a green piece of wood with an axe, adze, gouges and spoke shave. Not turned on a lath. A little more on that here.

Wavey English Ladderbacks-2

I’ve been swamped the last few months, and summer is always a huge distraction for me. Too many fun things to do involving water like canoeing with my daughter on the Gun Powder, fishing with friends in the bay or a boat ride with the family are much more inviting than spending every weekend in the shop. But I have thought about you all and have wanted to give an update on the English ladder backs I posted about before. It’s been a thrill walking back in time working on these and watching the London Olympics too, the areal shots of the country side are neet to see. It’s fun to have all of this happen at the same time. The owners of this set of chairs did get them appraised by Michael Flanigan of Antiques Road Show. He thought they were mid to late 1800’s with one or two of the set of eight being early twentieth century. I still feel the first couple I worked on were older than that. The techniques were old school no less, hey I can dream cant I? Mr. Flanigan put a value of 6 to 8,000$ for the set.The chairs have been in the family for a generation or so I believe and they like them. One could spend more than that on a new set of dinning room chairs. I think the general consensus ended up being “if you like them get them fixed and use them”, also they are not that unusual of a find.These chairs were made in huge numbers by many different craftsman through out the country. It is however a bit unusual to have a set this big with so many varying in age, said Mr. Flanigan . The pic above, it’s hard to tell but the mortises on this chair were drilled with a spoon bit. I say that because the bottom of the mortise is cupped not flat with no center hole or divet like you see with a modern drill bit. In all the years I have been doing this I still have not used a spoon bit. Alexander used to speak enthusiastically about these bits. There fast, precise and clean cutting. They can be turned at any angle with total control of direction and the ability to change that direction at will, something that happens when drilling by hand and eye, you need to make small corrections to hold the desired angle. I like drilling with a brace n bit using a square and bevel gauge to see the angles I need to hold, (or no guides at all when its something I’m throwing together)its a fun challenge, probably because chair making by hand and eye is pretty forgiving. Now I want to get a spoon bit again……. In the side panels the seat rungs were the sloppiest the middle rungs were pretty much tight and the bottom rungs were loose but not as bad as the seat rungs.The back panel was tight and the front loose, only two rungs in the front and they get worked. The seat rungs get worked the most then the bottom rungs and the side rungs are a kind of insurance, there placement is such that they don’t get stressed like the others. When all of these parts are put together it makes an incredibly strong structure.This is what Alexander told me, it made sense then and is proven here. Now with that said this middle rung’s tenon broke off in the front post with little effort while taking it apart, there are worm or bug holes all around it on the post and tight as could be in the back post. I drilled it out with a 5/8″ stanley power bore bit in the brace and made a new tenon. Then thinned some west system epoxy with denatured alcohol and poured it into the degrading wood ( someone had filled a lot of this area with wood putty before) of the front post to make it sound again- sorry chair gods- As fate would have it I recently milled an American Elm tree! (I have some slabs for sale contact me if your interested [email protected]) so was able to replace the bad front rungs with the appropriate wood not that you’ll ever see them once the seats are on. On one of the original seat rungs they used a piece that had the sap wood and the worm canals you see under bark of a tree that’s been down awhile. If I’m not mistaken Elm like Ash and many fruit woods can be used right up to and including the sap wood. In Red Oak for instance you want to split that off. There are other things that interest me about these chairs but not enough room or energy to include them all in this post, that this stuff can be a real snooze-fest if your not into it.