Saturday, 31 October 2015

Another Trip Outside the Comfort Zone

OK, I'm way behind in my blogging responsibilities, but I'm working to catch up.  Considering that I started working on this vase about... well... less than ten years ago (but more than seven), four months to blog about it isn't too bad.

This vase is the result of some more recent influences, especially from the Saskatoon 2014 Woodturning Symposium.  The emphasis there was more on surface decoration rather than turning techniques, and initially I was kind of disappointed with it because I thought that I would never use any of what I was learning.  I did check out Binh Pho's airbrush demo though because I had done some airbrush tattoos before and it is a lot of fun.

I started the vase itself all those years ago as a natural edge project.  It is made from birch and was originally turned wet to about 3/4" thick and left to dry for a while.  When I went back to it I found it had cracked so I filled the cracks with epoxy and thinned the walls a bit more, then let it dry a while longer.  When I came back to it again  the cracks were larger and more numerous.  More epoxy and I started to turn it again but this time it flew off the lathe when the base snapped.  I set it aside for a few  more years.

Fast forward to the 2015 Matisho Memorial.  I decided that I wanted to try some air brushing on something but I didn't want to spend a lot of time starting a turning from scratch, and I especially didn't want to cover a good piece of wood with paint.  This vase, sitting in the 'corner where projects go to die', was the obvious choice.

Even more epoxy, and this is what I started with when I got to Waldheim.  The first thing I needed to do was to put it between centres and turn the foot so I could grab it with the chuck.  In order to do this I needed a centre at the top end of the vase.  Fortunately I had a piece left over from a face plate turning (I am not a hoarder, I swear) that fit nicely inside and gave me a centre for the top end.

After I turned the foot I turned the bowl around and knocked off the natural edge.  I kept turning until I had this.

The next step was to cover it in sanding sealer and let it dry for a while.  While I waited I sketched out some flowers.

The numbers are there to show the stages in which the masking is removed from the vase.  When  the overlapping edges are outlined with black this helps to give the petals some depth and separation.  Once the sanding sealer had dried it was time to transfer the flowers to the vase.  For this, I used wax free transfer paper.  It won't interfere with the paint and comes in multiple colors so I can remember which color I was going to paint each flower.

I did my best to erase the parts of the flowers that were 'under' the other flowers but I wasn't 100% successful.  It didn't matter in the end anyway other than helping to keep my layers straight.

Before I started painting I had to make sure that the paint went where it was supposed to.  I covered the vase with frisket, a thin, clear, sticky backed film that cuts easily.  Because the vase tapered as it went I cut it into tapered strips and stuck them on.  Later I realized that, because I was painting the background in this step, I could have just covered the flowers alone and I would have saved a lot of frisket.

I painted the inside yellow to start.  It took a few coats to hide the epoxy.   I had been concerned that the epoxy would simply repel the paint but using lots of light coats eventually colored it over.  You can still see where it was if you look but it doesn't jump out at you as badly as it might have with other finishes.   After painting the interior I used a scalpel to cut the frisket around the flowers and peel away everything that covered the background.

The background consists of three layers.  The first layer is a translucent blue-green (viridian according to the bottle) followed by a thin layer of opaque yellow and finally another layer of viridian.  If you think it looks a little blotchy, it was deliberate.  The intention was to simulate an out-of -focus background of grass.  To be honest though, I really didn't pull it off.  The other thing I should have done before I painted the green was outline the top and bottom of the flowers with black.  This would have helped them to stand out from the background.  One thing I have learned about airbrushing is that everything looks like crap until you remove the masking.

  Once the paint had dried I re-applied the Frisket so I could paint the individual flowers.  At this point I got carried away (once again) and forgot to take any pictures.  If there is anyone who reads this blog, they must get frustrated by this habit of mine.  This time though, because the painting is the biggest part of this project, and because I don't need to make another vase to show how it was done, I'm going to recreate the process for you.

It starts with a drawing of a flower.  In this case I laid the frisket on top of the paper and drew the flower on top.  Then I used an X-acto knife to cut along all the lines.  Make sure to cut through the intersections slightly.  The numbers show the order in which the pieces of frisket are removed.

Remove the sections with the number 1 on them and paint lightly along the edges where they border other sections but not the outer edges.

Repeat the process for the number 2 sections, followed by the number 3(s) and 4's.  When you remove the 4's the only place you need to paint is right at the base where they meet the centre.

Now you can see some separation, some of the petals look like they are 'under' the others. The frisket is still over the centre and all around the outside.

The next step is to add some colour.  I'm not painting individual petals at this point, just trying to get a semi-even coat over the whole thing,

Now I have cut a piece of paper with a curve that starts with a large radius and tightens as it goes.  I lay it on the flower and try to line it up with a low spot in the top of the petal, then paint along the edge.  The goal is to get paint on both the paper and the flower.  Repeat the process all around the flower, changing the part of the curve that you use, or flipping it over, to add some variation.

When I did the vase this is the point where I stopped.  Since then though I have tried to get things to look a little more realistic by shading things to give them the appearance of light hitting the high spots.

Here is the finished product with the centre painted an the frisket removed from the outside.

I think I went a little overboard with the shading and the centre isn't as sharp as it should have been, but at least it still looks like a flower.  Here is a closer look at the flowers on the vase.

As you can see it didn't come out looking like a professional job but, like a lot of my stuff, it looks good from a distance.  The airbrushing was fun and there are lots of techniques to try.  It has kind of sucked me in for a while, and I will share more later.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Troll Bridge

Back in June of 2006, I bought that month's issue of Fine Woodworking because of a cover that promised "Razor sharp in two minutes."  I was just beginning to learn to sharpen at the time and, having spent long hours flattening the backs of my chisels and plane blades and giving them fresh bevels I was intrigued.  Although I never adopted any of the methods described in that article, one other article magazine has stuck with me to this day.

That article was "An Exercise in Design" by Mark Schofield.  In it, he was building a hall table inspired by a bridge like the one in the picture above.  Because of copyright I can't show you the actual picture, so this is the Broadway bridge here in Saskatoon.  Its close enough so you get the idea.
Schofield was using steam bent arches for the legs and he was worried that under load the arches would spread and the table top would sink down.  Looking for ideas, he sent the picture, along with the dimensions of his table and an explanation of his problem, to three other furniture makers.

These gentlemen (Jere Osgood, Wayne Marcoux, and Garrett Hack) all came back with different solutions to the problem.  Although there were similarities all of designs were quite distinct, solving the problem in very different ways.  In the end, Scofield ignored all of their designs and did his own thing.  If it proves anything, it proves that if you ask 4 different woodworkers how to do something, you will get 6 different answers.

Of course, I had my own idea for the table.  Did I rush to the shop to build it?  No.  I sat on it for almost nine years.  And, really, I still haven't built it (This is not an unusual process for me.  I think it might make a good blog post some day) but at least I have built a prototype.  Half size.

Instead of having the arches go vertical, I put them on angles so they crossed.  Then, to keep them from spreading, I ran a stretcher between and through them.

The impetus to build this prototype came from the Guild's annual 2 x 4 challenge.  Here is the 2 x 4 in original condition.

The legs are each made up of  eight 1" x 1/8" x 40"  strips.

These were then bent around a form and then all glued together except for the inside strip.  This will make sense soon, I promise.

If you're looking at that picture and thinking "That's not enough clamps" or "He should have used something to spread out the pressure" you're right.  It was pretty obvious when I took it off the form where the clamps had been.  It's just the prototype though so I didn't get too bent out of shape (Pun intended),  On the next leg I did use some cauls and it looked a lot better.

The next move was to taper the legs from the centre to the ends.  I wanted the legs to end up 1/2" thick at the ends so, because there was still one strip to glue on, I marked them at 3/8" from the outside edge and tapered to the centre.  Then I cut the curve on the bandsaw.

Now I could put the leg back on the bending form and glue the last strip to the inside.  This gave me an unbroken surface on both the inside and the outside of the leg.  Probably not necessary on a prototype but it just looks better, and maybe a little stronger too.  My plan for the actual table is to taper each strip from 1/4" to 1/8" before gluing them together.

I built this jig to hold the leg arches in place so I could line up, mark, and cut the 2 joints where the legs intersected.  It was long enough to offset them a bit and work my way in.

To me this joint is the heart and soul of this table, the thing that makes it unique.  And it did not turn out at all like I expected.  In my mind's eye, before I built this prototype, the surfaces of the two arches would cross in basically the same plane.

Please ignore the terrible joinery.

As you can see that is not the way it actually worked. The surfaces were not even close to being co-planar.  In fact, it is hard to imagine that they could be any further out than they were.  It kind of threw me for a loop.

I pressed on anyway, mostly because I needed a project for the Guild's 2 x 4 challenge.  I didn't quite get it finished in time but it was close enough.  When I showed it to the Guild everyone seemed more intrigued by the lattice top than the legs, which kind of surprised me.

If this blog entry seems to end rather suddenly it is because I have been trying to write it for six months now.  It has happened in bits and pieces here and there and none of it really feels right.  There is something I want to say about this table but I can't figure out what it is.  Anyway, it has held me up long enough.  Time to move on.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Things We Do To Do The Things We Do

Once again I have picked up the gauntlet and decided to create a piece for the 2 x 4 challenge.  And, once again, I have bitten off more than I can chew.

It's not just building the project I have chosen (a 1/2 scale table prototype), it's building all the jigs and such that it requires.  It seems like there is an awful lot of them this time.

The first things I made were this drawing bow and a crude compass for drawing arcs.  Both are scrap wood.  The compass has a hole at one end sized to friction-fit a pencil and a nail driven through as a pivot at 12".  Using the compass I marked out a couple of arcs on the MDF to make a bending form.  After rough cutting the arcs from they were rounded on this jig at the oscillating spindle sander.

The pin is just a nail with the head cut off.  It engages a hole drilled at the centre point of the arc.
The two pieces were screwed together to make a form 1.5" thick.

If you're wondering about the tongue cut out of the bottom edge it's because I had to overlap them a bit to get two pieces out of the one piece of MDF that I had.  It's partly because the 2 x 4 challenge is about using as little as possible but mostly because I was too cheap to buy a bigger piece of MDF.

After screwing some plywood to the back side to act as a backer for the form I covered the edge with Gorilla Tape.  If you don't want glue to stick to something, cover it with Gorilla Tape.  If you've ever used it you know what I mean.

The holes were drilled with a brace and bit so I could put clamps around the edge.

The next jig I built was to hold everything in place so I could work out some joinery.

Once the joints were made I used another jig to align a mortise chisel so I could make a square hole.

This hole goes right through the legs at each end so a square rod can tie the legs together.  That makes six jigs just to make the legs.

With the legs set aside I began making jigs for the top.  I used this set up along with the drawing bow to mark the curves for the rails of the table top.

A similar set up was used to mark the curves on the styles.  I'm counting that as two.

The next set-up was to control the depth of cut for the notches in the rails that were to accept the slats of the lattice.

I know it doesn't look like much but it still took some time to get everything straight and square.  Again, I used a similar set-up for the rails.  Two more.

The last jig I made was to cut the half-laps in the lattice slats.  I used the same one to cut the notches in both the short and long pieces.

That makes 11 jigs to make one project.  I'm not sure if I spent more time on the jigs than I did on the table, but they did take up a lot of time.  Was that time as much fun as working on the project itself?  I'm not sure about that either.  I didn't build all the jigs and then build the table, I switched back and forth as things progressed.  Part of it may have been that I was trying to meet a deadline for this project, and that is not the way I normally work, but this just seemed to be an exhausting project. How did it turn out?  Stay tuned.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Better See Them Here...

Because you sure won't find them in any of your fancy woodworking magazines.  Or the not-so-fancy ones either.

These shelves were purpose built to hold these cardboard box units, originally designed to hold trading cards.  We call them 'faux' apothecary cabinets.  My wife uses hers to hold craft supplies, my son to hold small Lego parts.

The red knobs are actually recycled lids from drink containers, bolted through the front of each drawer.  This was my wife's idea and they work perfectly.

I used whatever scraps of plywood I could find that were big enough, and some that weren't.  It turns out that 4' is the perfect height to make the 4 compartment unit, but that was the longest piece that I had.  To make one that was 6 high I had to join the sides to shorter pieces with some smaller scraps.

This created a space in between the second and third shelf that I decided to fill with a drawer.  Every bit of storage helps in our house.  The drawer is another pretty crude concoction, made from 4 pieces of pine screwed together and then glued and nailed to a plywood bottom.  That assembly was then screwed to the drawer face from the inside.

Right now it's kind of a 'secret' drawer, but I think it would look just fine with a couple of those fancy red pulls on it too.

As per instructions I attached casters to the bottoms so the units could be rolled to wherever they are needed.

Although they are not very pretty, they are at least solid enough to do the job.  The sides are 5/8" plywood and the shelves are 3/4" thick and are glued and brad nailed into dadoes in the sides.  The backs are 3/16' plywood set into rabbets and again glued and brad nailed.  The face frame was sliced from an old 2 x 4 and attached, of course, by glue and brad nails.  I must have watched too much New Yankee Workshop.

When my wife requested/demanded that I build these, she said "They don't have to be pretty, they just have to work."  I like to think I delivered on both counts.