Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thought For The Day: 'Heuristics'

Click photo above to read it ... "move forward on incomplete information" .. I love that ...

My son Sam pointed out this little gem of advice for the problemsolver (and what woodworker/artist isn't one?) from editor Brian Gilbert in the Spring issue of The Hammer's Blow, the ABANA quarterly. It's a summary of one of Robert Genn's letters to artists. The full text of Robert Genn's letter is here. Some of his other posts, like the 'The Zen of Art' and the one on 'Shibui' are also worth a read. The web is amazing for the connections you can make to other people's thoughts, and sometimes they are just the thoughts you need to move your own art and life along.

And, if you read The New Yorker and like articles on thinking and working and problem solving, try Jonah Lehner's "The Eureka Hunt" in this week's (July 28th) issue. It's along these same lines... Enjoy...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Restoring a Handmade Box

A friend and local antique dealer, Richard Latour of Millstone Antiques in Manchester, VT brought us this box to repair last week. It was missing some of the diagonal top edge inlays and some others pieces, including the heart shaped keyhole. He wanted it to be saleable, didn't want to have the gaping holes where the inlay was gone or spend a fortune on it. We agreed to do what we could for what he wanted to pay and once we got started it came out ok for everyone ... Check it out, it's a cool one ... Click the pictures to enlarge them ...
Getting started .. Gluing up a strip for the replacement parts
Patching in with the angled pieces we made form the strip for the edge inlays seen in the photo above
The 'finished' end repair
The front of the box ...
We even discovered what we think is some valid history. We had speculated that it might be English, late 19th century, but while we were working on it, the frame holding the mirror in the lid came loose and when we removed the mirror for safekeeping, we found this 1884 Schenectady Gazette under what apeared to be the original mirror ... Who knew?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Quick CNC Project (Yet Another)

Lately, as you can see from some other entries on this blog, (More Custom CNC Work, Greene and Greene Style Inlay) we've been doing custom CNC work for other furnituremakers. The more we do, the more we do. Once people understand the machine's capabilities and how the process works, and how good my man Trevor is at taking care of their business, it seems like a pretty easy thing. Here's a project we did for local custom furnituremaker Bob Gasperetti. It involved 'crowning' headboard and footboard panels to give them curved faces. I'm not sure what would be a good way to do this operation without the cnc except maybe free hand with a hand or power plane .... We also cut curved 5/8" deep mortises in the footboard posts so the curved plank itself could disappear into them expand and contract. The headboard panel was 'floating' free of the posts and top rail ... It should look cool when it's done ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More Custom CNC Work

We're working on a project for my friend and neighbor down the road, Steve Holman of Holman Studios. He has a commission to design and fabricate a run of chairs for a company called Porta Brace, a Vermont based manufacturer of professional level camera and camcorder bags. It's been an interesting and challenging project, to develop a working concept and finished prototype for production on the CNC. We are not making all the parts, but we are doing the parts that are involved in the actually joinery of the chairs like mortises and tenons, hinge insertion spots, removeable arms, the folding footrests, and the shape of and decorative logo detail on the front of the arm stumps. The project has led me to think about my router more, like other woodworking companies, as a tool for mass production , than as a means to fabricate complicated one of a kind custom projects, which is mainly how we have been using it. As a result of this commission, we recently used it to do the joinery for a group of three custom double bureaus for one of our clients. It certainly speeded up that process, and now that we have a basic understanding, we can apply what we learned to other case construction opportunities and hopefully help other woodworkers with short run production challenges. Click the pictures too enlarge them for better viewinig ...

40 legs cut from blanks with hinge holes and mortises (on the other side)

setting up for the tenons

40 tenons ... 40 good fits

mortise and tenon
Click the picture for better viewing ... more photos to come...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tansu Style Cabinet

This is the second tansu style cabinet we have made. The first. at the bottom of this post, was now nearly 20 years ago and I sort of forgot exactly what's involved in making one of these. There are a ton of parts already and we're still getting started .... (260 pieces of wood, plus the hardware is roughly the final tally).... Interesting project though .. Click the pictures to enlarge ..

Hardware on ... first coat of finish

Waiting for the hardware now

7/3/08 shows the seperate top unit and the back of the base cabinet

The assembled case

Original sketch above and CAD drawing below

First iteration / variation to the right

Final shop drawing ... all drawers

Showing the interior drawer supports
Starting the dovetails for the 17 drawers
Starting the interior frames .... we're gonna count the pieces of wood so far tomorrow ...
The fronts and backs of the case are glued up, but the ends are not yet. We left some pieces out so we can see what we're doing inside while we'e building the drawer supports...

Sanding parts of the top case prior to first rough assembly

The top 3 case 'skeletons' assembled

Showing the crotch cut boards we'll use for the side panels ... They'll be split and half used for each end of the upper cases. I've got a great board for the top panels too.
First assembly with all the panels prior to final fitting and glue up ...
ALL the parts on the two carts are for inside the cabinet ...
drawer sides and drawer supports

The original ... 1989 ... Danby, VT Still 100%

Friday, July 18, 2008


Just so you know .... My life is not all woodworking and writing this blog. I read, a lot, actually, and mostly not about woodworking. And play tennis, and, this summer, play golf. Mostly I play with the previously mentioned Bill LaBerge at the local Lake Saint Catherine Country Club where we literally 'tear up the course' as often as not. Today is Bill's birthday and we plan to head out after lunch. Since I have previously loaned him Carl Hiiasen's 'Downhil Lie; A Hacker's return to a Ruinous Sport'. I thought a birthday golf post would be just the thing for him. It's from John Updike's 'Golf Dreams', quoted without permission, but with the intention of encouraging you to buy the book or get it from your local library where I got my copy. Golf writing, in the right hands, can be extremely entertaining; more so, at times, then the game.
Click on the entry below so you can read it ....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Custom Window Grill

gold leafed and polished ... Click th epictures to enlarge ...

After a moment of temporary confusion, we 'got er done' and ready for paint and gold leaf below

We've actually been puttering on this project, figuring it out part by part over the last couple of weeks while the construction project that will be it's final home was idling along. We now have a delivery date so we're starting the push to get it together and finish it up .... It will be a grill over a piece of glass in a passage door, and it's based on a design by Gilbert Poillerat (French 1902-1988), known for his metal work. It's been fun so far and I can't wait to see it all come together.

The original inspiration page .. Unfortunately we won't be able to charge as much as Gilbert gets these days ...

The full size drawing and the parts ready to assemble

Getting the 'bows' cut and ready to weld

The joinery of the frame (round tenons in holes, welded from the outside, is complete and the arrow needs the ball on it. Unfortunatelym the forged ball we bought was hardened by the
manufacturing process and it's proving tough to drill ... we'll get it ... heat it, cool it, heat it, cool it ... The arrow is looking pretty cool ...

6/824/08 Home stretch .... 'Bows' assembled and located, twisted wire detail explored ....

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anatomy of a Wall Sconce

Front View CAD drawing

We made several of these fir and walnut sconces for a client several years ago and I have always meant to make some more. They look great on the wall, they're fun to build (though time consuming and a bit fussy) and they give you a chance to try some stained glass work if you're so inclined. The dimensions on the drawing are approximate and I recommend starting with a mockup and/or a full size drawing to lay out the joinery. You should be able to get lamp supplies and advice from your local lighting place or online. Be sure to check grounding requirements with your local electrician.
daylight with the light on
inside view .. note brass back plate against wall

side view .. dimensions approximate
joinery mockup showing space for glass and tenons ... the tenons were mitered and pinned ..
this sconce inspiration photo is from the G&G area of the Huntington Museum in Pasadena ...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Greene and Greene Style Inlay

Close up of the finished chair

My friend and golf partner, Bill LaBerge is a fine furnituremaker, inspired by furniture of Greene and Grene and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and we often share our skills and resources. In fact, within a two mile radius of my shop there are a total of four custom furnituremakers, myself, Bill, Steve Holman, and Bill Tate, (no website), all with employees and we all cooperate and help one another, sharing our tools, our lumber orders, and our particular skills and expertise. Bill recently had a comission for some Blacker House style chairs that involved 12 inlaid backsplats. To be more precise, 24 curved, through mortises, 12 inlay pockets and 120 pieces of pretty tiny inlay. After completing and photocopying his handmade prototype, he asked if we could do the preparatory inlay work for him on our CNC to speed the process along. We scanned his full sized photocopy into our CAD program, created the drawings and the protoype below, (with donut), made the improvements he suggested, created a second, more finished prototype for his approval and we were off. The splats were curved so we made extra deep pockets and thicker inlays so everything could be leveled off. He cut the through square holes on his mortiser after we were finished doing our work. There was still some handwork for him to do after we were through, but essentially, the inlay pieces fit right into the holes cut by our router. Total elapsed time per splat for the work described above including the prototyping and programming .... approximately one hour per splat. If you don't think the Hall brothers would have loved this machine, you never tried to make a set of custom chairs with inlays and make a profit at the same time .... Please contact us for custom inlay work and custom CNC work at
802 867 5541 ... Thanks ... Click the pictures for better viewing ...

Drawing Bill's protoype inlay on the laptop, creating the tool paths

Sample inlay pockets with donut

Stool and chair splats ... our inlays off the router, on the right hand splat

First three of the sixty inlay 'stems'