Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Curly Maple Windsor Chair Reamers

I'm just finishing up a batch of curly maple reamers.  The wood is rejected leg blanks from Curtis Buchanan's windsor chair shop in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  Ideal chair wood is dead straight grained and boring, boring, boring.  Curtis rejected these blanks because dealing with the curly grain is more hassle than he was interested in, and the best log yard in the country is a fifteen minute drive from his house.

Fortunately for me, that curly grain makes for some very nice reamers.  I have seven of these reamers available for $130 each plus shipping.  I can bill through Paypal and have them shipped in time for the holidays.  Leave a comment or email me if interested.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Boxwood Chair Reamer

I think I have found the perfect wood for a reamer.  Sometime last year I started experimenting with making reamers from extremely dense woods.  It has become one of the things that keeps the repetitive process interesting.  I get to experiment with woods that I haven't used before, learn a little something about the working characteristics of the species, and end up with a very solid, hard wearing reamer.  Win, win, win.

I just finished up a reamer made out of an exceptional piece of boxwood and it is one of the most pleasing woods that I have had the pleasure to use.  It is heavy and hard, but cuts like butter; it is smooth and seemingly indifferent to which direction the grain is flowing.  It holds exceptional detail and your fingers can sense the hardness as they touch the surface.  I think I'm in love.

Macassar Ebony Reamer.
I didn't have time to take pictures of it, but I also made one out of Macassar Ebony.  Thankfully it went to a student of Greg Pennington's and Greg got a good shot of it in use with lasers running up both sides to dial in the right angle.  The ebony is even more dense than the boxwood; it sinks in water.  But it isn't as friendly to work with.

I've only made a handful of these super dense reamers and until now I've sold them to people who are already on my wait list.  But, if you are considering ordering a reamer and are interested in a specialty wood, let me know, and I'll let you know what material I have that is properly acclimated.

The boxwood reamer pictured throughout this post is already spoken for and headed to Australia tomorrow.  I have one more perfect boxwood blank and three pieces of Macassar ebony on hand which are all ready to throw on the lathe and make into reamers.  The price for these ultra hard reamers is $185.  I make the reamers to order, so please enquire if interested.

I just started another special batch of reamers today and they'll be ready to ship in time for the holidays.  More about them later this week.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Skin on Frame Kayak: Building the Molds and Bending the Gunnels

One way to accurately replicate a boat design is to build the boat on a strongback with molds that hold the major structural pieces in the proper position.  For most skin on frame kayak building, this method is overkill, but Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak says that if you stray from the design of his F1 kayak that you'll have slug of a boat.

So, I built a strongback and molds at several stations along the boats length to hold the gunnels, chines, and keel in the proper positions.

Keel bent into place.

Molds in place.

One of the most interesting parts of building this boat was learning how to loft measurements from a drawing.  Lofting is a dead simple, logical, ingenious process that you can use to pull measurements off of a drawing.  I then used those measurements to create a series of molds and attached them to my strongback.  Here is a link to a more detailed description of lofting that replica kayak builder extraordinaire Harvey Golden wrote.  Learning a new way to define complex shapes in space is pretty much a guarantee  to blow my mind every time.

Getting the gunnels in place was exciting, because one of the most prominent features of a boat is the sweep of the sheer.  The curve of the gunnels defines the sweep of the sheer on this boat and as soon as they were bent into place, it felt like the boat jumped off the page and into my workshop.

I added tabs to the molds and used wedges to lock the gunnels in place.

The ends of the gunnels are lashed together.
Looking boat-ish.
With all the major longitudinal parts in place, I snaked the boat back through the doorway to my workshop, which is just big enough to fit the kayak diagonally across it.  This arrangement made for a few weeks of inconvenient access to my bandsaw.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Skin on Frame Kayak: Ripping and Mortising

Before I could do anything else I had to free the gunnels, keel and chines from the Western red cedar 1x10 that was holding them.  I clamped a wooden fence to the base of my circular saw and went to town.

Fence clamped to circular saw for ripping.

Western red cedar for keel, chines, and gunnels.
My 9x16 workshop was more than a little tight for building this boat.  I overflowed into my shopmate's space on evenings and weekends and then carefully snaked the kayak back into my workshop before he returned.  I also worked outside as the weather permitted.

Gunnels, keel, and chines ripped.

Gunnels clamped up to lay out rib mortises.
Before bending the gunnels to shape, I wanted to cut all of the rib and deckbeam mortises.  I didn't have a plunge router to cut the mortises for the ribs so I picked up a little clamp on doweling jig to give me two holes at full depth on either end of the rib mortises.  Chopping out the waste in between and squaring up the ends was easy peazy.  Admittedly, not as easy peazy as a plunge router, but I enjoy quality time with a mortising chisel when I get it.  Most of my work right now is with hickory, sugar maple, and East Indian rosewood.  Working with the soft red cedar was sheer delight.  I see more softwoods in my future.

Jig aligns on center.
Drill two holes, scribe the edges, and chop out the middle.

I jigged up my drill press to cut the angled deck beam mortises.

Deck beam mortising jig.

Mortise layed out.

Three holes drilled.

Waste drilled out.

One final pass and the mortise is complete.
With the forty rib mortises and twelve deckbeam mortises excavated, I was ready to start bending the gunnels to shape.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Skin on Frame Kayak: The Design

Earlier this summer my girlfriend ponied up and bought herself a nice hot pink fiberglass sea kayak, which finally put the screws to me to build the skin on frame boat that I had been dreaming of for the past couple of years.

Skin on frame construction is the way that kayaks were originally built in the arctic waters of their origin.  You make a wooden skeleton that is a framework for a waterproof skin that encloses the boat. Traditionally, the skin was made up of several seal skins that had been sewn together, and then sewn around the boat.  Most modern builders of skin on frame boats opt for ballistic nylon, polyester, or canvas as opposed to seal skin.

I considered building a Greenland style boat, but eventually settled on building an F1 kayak designed by Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak.  Brian is a paddler and kayak designer/builder on the Oregon coast.  He teaches skin on frame boat building classes and builds kayaks and paddles to order.  He is actually gearing up for an epic round the country kayak class marathon this winter/spring that is probably coming to a city near you.  You can read more about the design, Brian, and skin on frame boats in general here.  Check here to see the current destinations for Brian's traveling kayak workshops.  Inspiring person, inspiring boats.  Here is a picture of Brian paddling one of his F1s out in their natural habitat.

Want one yet?

At 14' long the F1 is short for a sea kayak, but it is playful, fast, and action packed.  Armed with Christopher Cunningham's book for construction techniques, Harvey Golden's drawing of Brian's F1 kayak, and a clear vertical grain 14' cedar 1x10, I took the plunge.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A few spoons and a dissection...

I was trying to close the upper portion of a window a couple of days ago and couldn't quite reach it.  I grabbed my workshop spoon, paused for a moment, and then pushed up on the window with the back of the handle.  I gave it a good shove and half of the bowl split off.

I was never satisfied with that spoon, which is why it never made it out of the workshop.  But I immediately saw new value in it.   I planed the handle down to the center line and now I have a perfect longitudinal section straight down the middle of the spoon which illustrates a couple of basic points of spoon design.

Notice the shape of the bowl.  The depth is in the back.

If you look closely at the pictures above you can see that the depth of the spoon's bowl is toward the back.  The front portion of the bowl is like a ramp leading down into that depth.  Notice how flat the front of the bowl is.  This shape, with the depth in the back and the front relatively flat, holds a good scoop of food while still allowing your upper lip to slide all the way along the bottom of the bowl and sweep that food into your mouth.  When the shape is right, eating from a spoon is a satisfying experience.  When the shape isn't right, the edges of the spoon dig into your lips and there is a morsel of food that has escaped your lip left in the bottom of the bowl after each bite.

Outside of the dissected spoon.

The other important detail to notice from this spoon dissection is how the thickest portion of the spoon relates to the depth of the bowl.  From the side I like a spoon to be an arrangement of sweeping curves.  This spoon was carved from a piece of straight lilac, so the curves are gentle and when you are not looking at them the spoon has the appearance of being flat.  My experience is that when a spoon is truly flat, it looks dead.  A few gentle curves along the length as the handle swells to the depth of the bowl gives the spoon a more lively look.  The neck of the spoon is the same thickness as the deepest part of the bowl, from the neck the thickness sweeps away into the thin part of the handle where the spoon is held.

Apple eating spoon of similar design.

Since I never really cared for that spoon I didn't want to post pictures of it all alone for the spoon nuts of the world to see, so I went through our spoon mug and pulled out a couple of old favorites.  As you look at the pictures think about how the different parts of the spoon (the bowl, the neck, the handle, and the finial) relate to each other.  Or maybe you feel that they don't relate to each other.  Looking at the shapes of the spoons like that helps to build your idea of a pleasing spoon.

These are a few that I enjoy.

Sweet birch serving spoon.

Rhododendron eating spoon. 

Steambent paper birch eating spoon.