Monday, November 30, 2009

The Chandelier Project

We made a nice big recycled chestnut table for a client back in January and since then, they have acquired a very appropriate chandelier to hang over it ... The fixture was meant, I think, to hang a bit higher overhead, as the builder left the wires and ends of the tubes exposed. In this instance, however the wires were eye level and in your face so my client's design assistant called us in for help ... It was a challenge first to imagine how to cover them and then to actually do it. We all thought it came out pretty good though ... We were even able to kind of match the funky finish on the rustic fixture once we bought a new toy to help us .. Click the photos to enlarge them ....

The fixture with the new piece on it

The 'before' shot

In process before the first test fit and onsite routing

Will, operating our new toy, a 500,000 ??? btu torch, with which he toasted the fir to get the black, irregular surface on the finished piece ... Essentially, you get some flames going a little... (they die out when you move the torch away), sand the results and add the stain and finish ... presto ... old looking wood ... I imagine it works best on softwoods like fir, with flammable sappy wood .. The torch was handy on another project already too, blackening some piano hinges for the big tv cabinet ... update on that later

The finish sample on a cut off of the recycled fir plank

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The 'Force' of Fine Woodworking Magazine

I started the blog post below in July of 2008, for some reason, leaving it then in 'draft' form. As I was categorizing some of my back posts so that they appear in the 'category' index to the left, I I stumbled across it. Since the original below was, in a way, a 'thanks' to the Taunton Press folks, I thought it might be appropriate to finish it up for the Thanksgiving weekend. I feel even more strongly about it now for a number of reasons. Since that time, their website has grown to be an amazing thing. From the readers gallery where you can post photos of your completed projects, to 'ask the experts', (which I've done with great success), to the general woodworking community and the 'This Woodworking Life Blog (I'm a contributor) it has really grown. Recently, an editor used photos from one of my blog posts to start a discussion on dovetails that has generated 102 comments since November 19th and sent hundreds of new readers to my blog. They are building a community there and a valuable resource for the future of our craft. My original words, pretty much unedited, appear below ... Enjoy ... Become a Fine Woodworking member, contribute .. comment ...

7/25/2008 the 'original' blog post ...
'I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend I hadn't seen for a while and he asked me what 'new stuff' I was doing in my business. He was particularly curious how the CNC router we bought 3 years ago was working out and 'What were we doing with it?'. Which led me to think, what were we doing with it? Coincidentally, as you can see in the posts below, along with our own work, we were doing work for other woodworkers. (See Trevor's CNC projects).
I started making custom furniture for a living full time Jaunary 1st, 1980. Seems like a long time ago and at the time there weren't many other people I knew making a living that way. There was, however, Fine Woodworking Magazine, a reader written magazine that showed the few of us there were in the area that there was a larger community of people like us out there, struggling and succeeding at what we were trying to do. And not only were they succeeding, but they were also sharing their hard earned knowledge with the rest of us (and, getting a little cash and recognition to do it). Amazing. From the Fine Woodworking Design Book Series, to the Techniques series and the Reader's Gallery the magazine has continuously raised the design and execution bar and encouraged dialog and cooperation among it's many readers. I am a member of the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers, an association of 28 master furniture makers, and know of many other organizations both national and regional that have sprung up in recent years to unite and encourage woodworkers to share their resources and knowledge. Through their coverage of the various groups' meetings and conferences, I know Fine Woodworking has been a force in that process as well. While many other woodworking magazines have arrived on the scene in recent years, Fine Woodworking is now (once again) leading the way in widening the woodworking community through their extensive website and online searchable articles database, blog list and Knots Forum to encourage dialog, discussion and progress. I commend Paul Roman and his family and the editors and staff that have worked throughout the years to make custom woodworking (and home building and sewing and gardening) a viable, enjoyable and deeply satisfying career choice. I'm not sure we all would have made it without them. I leave you with a mission quote from their website, thank them for their efforts and encourage them ever onward.

"If you're a Taunton reader, you have a passion for creative activities that enrich your life. You search enthusiastically for information that will help you pursue your interests at a deeper level. For more than 30 years, we at The Taunton Press have made it our mission to provide such information and insight. We recognize that our greatest value is as an inspiration and a resource. For that reason, the ideas, skills, and techniques we present are communicated clearly, in an environment that is both accessible and credible."

8/4/17 ... and i have also recently been asked to become part of the 'top reveal' community, a product research and home improvement tip source ... you can find lots and lots of interesting DIY information shared there too like these simple woodworking projects you can do with a little enthusiasm and some very basic tools.

live creatively!

Mr. Cooper's Fire

We attended a small gathering of fire enthusiasts who were celebrating a friend's 6oth last night ... Beautiful evening, great chili, lots of people ... lots of fun ... I just watched a segment about Tom Petty on the CBS Sunday Morning show and he said about birthdays ' If you're not getting older, you're dead.' .. So, next time you're up, grab some fireworks, build a fire, get some food, grab some friends ... It's just another day in paradise ... Click the pictures to enlarge them ...

It was a bright and sunny fall day, some snow in the higher elevations

a crowd gathered

the pile was ready

except for some last minute fuse adjustments

and a littl emore kerosene

the fuse

adjustments to the burning fuse by the birthday boy and resident pyro




dinner time

wind down

all done ... TET .. 2 plus hours

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Big TV Cabinet

As I mentioned in a previous post, we're working on a largish audio/tv cabinet for the 'This Old House' project. It is deceptively simple in appearance with a few little devils in the details, folding and sliding recessed doors being just one of them ...

As on any big project, after the drawings, we mapped out full size layout sticks. These are similar to a carpenter's 'story pole', on which clapboard courses are laid out full size. By transcribing measurements from the drawings full size onto sticks of wood, we can later check our progress against something that is true to life. We put one view per face (front,side,plan), including other details like televisions and audio equipment, that are important to the function of the piece. If we're building something 10', 12 or even 14' long, we will make the long layout view on masking tape and tape it right to the floor where we're going to be working on the piece. Often this is a discovery process of potential flaws in the drawings and a good way to check that things will fit in the spaces in the end ... Different from the drawings, which I usually do, everyone gets to participate in making these sticks and it's a good way to introduce everyone working on it to the complications and subtleties of the finished concept.

Getting under way ... The ply parts and counter mockup are set. The jog in the back of the top cabinet allows the doors to recess into the cabinet, moves the tv forward toward the viewer and creates a 'chimney' to allow heat from the lower area where the components to escape from the cabinet. A final bonus of the stepped out back is that it gives a virtually structureless upper cabinet some rigidity other than the plywood of the back. The back on the lower cabinet is temporarily luan. Click the photos to enlarge them ...

There are a lot of parts to this one ... above, stiles and rails for the doors and end panels

We're veneering the panels of the doors for stability and consistency. We got our extra wide curly maple veneers from Certainly Wood, one of our two primary wood suppliers. Here, Trevor and Jim are cutting the veneers on the cnc, a job we usually hate to do manually ... There are 16 door and 8 end panel veneers. We made this jig to position the veneer pieces on the cnc and cut them all the same size. Trevor also cut the mdf panels on which Will glued the veneers using the same file so everything is the same size and all parts are exactly square. This was a gold star process that allowed what would have been a time consuming veneering project to move along swiftly.

The finished door panels

The doors and end frames ready for final fit up

The cornice pieces are ready to install and the face frames are on

The doors are glued up and trimmed, ready to be hung on Monday ...

The sides of the cabinets are furred out to receive the side panels which will be mitered to the face frames .... all for now ... we're off til Monday for a mini vacation time

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day

It was a mellow one this year .... An unseasonably warm day and a small but warm gathering of just us, the boys, one nephew and all the girl friends. Nice .... We were thankful for lots and lots and lots of stuff, but mostly that my sister, who has been in a mysterious coma like situation in a Boston hospital since Sunday, was able to wish her husband a Happy Thnaksgiving ... virtually her first words in four days ... phew ! When you've got your health, appreciate every moment ... It can all go so wrong so quickly .... carpe diem !

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Carrot and The Stone

I don't know ... The big carrot and the big stone kind of go together in my head ... Unrelated, but related in a way too .... Both from the soil somehow .... We we're getting ready for dinner Friday night and Kit came in from the garden kind of chuckling with a carrot in her hand ... It's November and we've still got a few left in the ground. This one was pretty good .... We cut it up and had it with our pasta and actually had some left over, if you can believe it ... It takes a village for a carrot like that one ...

And then, today, Pete and Asa, our brother-in-law and nephew came by with a stone that Pete had given to Kit as a birthday present hmmm ... 4? ... 5? years ago. We can't remember when and though we can't remember why (it must have been cause she did something special for him) though I'm thinking now it might have been Kit's 50th which was actually 7 years ago. We have talked about it every year since... thinking it might go here, thinking it might go there, but it wasn't until this year that we decided where, and I finally, actually, dug a hole. It was a perfect day for it today, sunny and 50, blue sky, fall air, and all went smoothly. Beer and pizza after ... Nice afternoon and the rock is a great addition to the front of the house ... Click the pictures to enlarge them ...

The site

The rock and tractor arriving .. Pete of Peter Moore Masonry supervising and Asa, his son, driving ... It's schist, from a quarry in Chester, Vermont ... We picked it a long time ago from Pete's field where he has a number of them available for clients ...

Getting it into position for the tip up

One end in the hole

Upright ... We had some trouble getting it totally upright, (it's a pretty heavy rock) and Sam had the bright idea to hook onto it with the pickup and a rope and tip it to vertical so we could reposition the forks and straps, relift it and dig under it where necessary ..

The smiling crew awaiting the pizza and beer

Like it's always been there

Get your own ... call Pete

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Recycled Oak Table

We started a recycled oak table project yesterday. The wood came late last Friday and we just stuck it in the shed for the weekend. Yesterday was a beautiful day, perfect for studying lumber outside, so we hauled it all out and stood it up against the end of the shop. Click the photos to enlarge them...

It was quite a good selection ..

We chalked them up and rough cut them to length and sort of identified what we thought might go where ... we'll make the final decisions after we mill them up ...

We made some finish samples from the cut offs and we'll finish them up tomorrow and mail them to the client. I always try to wait for the actual wood to arrive as each batch of recycled lumber is slightly different in character, age, and in the way it takes stains and finishes ... This client will be putting this table in a very contemporary setting ... Should be great, regardless of the color she picks ...

It's on the rack, 'resting' now, acclimating to the shop and our environment. I was pleased it came in the door at about 9% ... Good for recycled lumber at this time of the year ... Our supplier for this project is Appalachian Woods in Stuart's Draft, Virginia ...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Last Rose of November ??

Click it to really see it

We have a CRAZY rose still growing and blooming in the garden ... It's the 18th of November, we've had 10 frosts, and the thing has still got beautiful pink roses on it ... Plus, this year, whether it was the rain or what, but it just took off ... The trellis is a little over 7' to the peak ... The rose is growing unsupported and must be 12' high or maybe more ... I'm tempted to put a metal extension up and see how high it goes next year ... It's great. I took some other photos of it as the summer went on and I'll post them at some point ... Love it !

Saturday, November 14, 2009

'This Week' At Dorset Custom Furniture

A friend and famous local tool collector came by after work on Wednesday to talk to us about how we would like to have our set of 'dream chisels' made ... That was interesting and it was nice that the boys hung around to talk with him about it ... Click the photos to enlarge them ...

One of my readers asked in a comment on the previous blog post 'how many projects do you have going on at one time in the shop?' .... I thought this week was a productive and interesting one so the thought occurred to me that the question might make a good blog post ... It'll be sort of a long one because when we're all here, there are five of us. We all pretty much know what we think we're doing most of the time, so it takes a lot of projects to keep us all occupied ... For the last 7 or 8 years we've had almost more work than we could do ... Right now, not so much. We're still busy but the projects seem smaller and more numerous, but still challenging. I guess this was a typical week but when I go through the list it doesn't seem possible that I could keep it all moving week after week like this for 30 years. But, I guess I have. We're still here. Once when I complained about feeling like I had ADD , my friend Pat confessed he had it too but preferred to think of it as being 'multifocused'.... I guess ... So, if you can believe it, this is what happened this past week .... Some of it has been in the works for a while so it might look somewhat familiar ...

The new table leaf in the raw ... See the previous post ...

Trevor finished his table leaf and we took it to the house for a test fit above ... while we were there, we noticed that some chairs and tables we made for the client's porch looked kind of shabby so we brought them all back to the shop for a quick spruce up. This client has bought sooooo much stuff from us over the last six years that it will be a 'no charge' spruce up....

Tuned up and ready to go back to the house next week..

Will finished a recycling bin cabinet for the 'This Old House' project ...It's stuck in the shop under the table because we're ahead of the carpenters at the house.

The dining table with the inlay is waiting for approval of the finish samples and
Trevor made two new final final prototypes of the ladder back chairs ... He had a small math error on the first one that could turn into an innovative chair concept ....

One of the other prototypes with the right back splats ... He also made a set of narrower ones, all about an in and an 1/8th wide that I'd like to study before we make the real ones ... These graduated ones, now that we've shortened the back legs, seem a little heavy to me ... There is NO overestimating what it takes to get a new chair design exactly right ... With a little thin leather seat, this one will sit nice, but I still think it could be a bit more dramatic ....

A friend came by with two table tops that needed to be run through the wide belt sander and cut for inlays, one set of wood ones and one set of metal ones. The metal ones were cool and something we hadn't done before ... Sam is making some tapered metal legs for that table too. I didn't get a picture of the other recycled spruce top with oak butterflies but that was cool too .. We finished designs for a large tv cabinet and made the layout sticks that you see in the photo above. We organized the materials for that including cut lists, ply, solid wood and hardware and did some preliminary part rough outs.

The cad drawing for the tv cabinet .. more on that later as we progress ...
A client came by with an unusual sculpture below that we designed a base for and will make next week.

The sculpture from the back mounted on a scrap of ply

The proposed base photoshopped in ...

Sam made good progress on big railing project he is working on .... welding the section supports onto the posts and he and Trevor made a welding jig for the sections on which Sam will weld the parts together next week ...

He welded the caps on his 2" square tubing posts ... This is an interesting and challenging railing and I'll write more on it later

He cut and ground his section parts and they're ready to weld

And he welded on the supports for each section. They are welded half inch square and round stock with tubing sleeves that will be welded onto the individual rail sections to support them ...

Sam also worked on a sculpture base for a local glass blower, Andrew Weill of Manchester Hot Glass

and made a walking turkey belt buckle for an order from his Facebook page

Will and Trevor made a table that goes with a pool table we made in the house with the table leaf.

We had the jigs from the last one we made like this

Trevor doing the center inlay

The table is not actually finished, but I stacked it up today to take a photo for this post ...

A recycled chestnut table we made last January with the troublesome light fixture above it

I worked on a strange and complex decorative piece to cover the wires of a light fixture that hangs over the chestnut table we made last January at a house at Stratton Mountain. I spent a couple of hours there Friday doing some fussy routing and next week I'll finish it up .. we also explored a 'burned' finish on the fir to match the existing chandelier ...

Jim took an unexpected day off on Wednesday. He has been helping another glass blower, Lucy Bergamini of Vitriesse Glass on weekends for a month or so now and in his words 'just needed a day off to do some laundry, clean his house and cure cancer'. I got a chuckle out of that excuse .... He also made a site visit to the burned house project to clean a brass screen frame that was built into the fireplace ..

We received a bunch of recylced oak for an upcoming table project ...And I had a late afternoon meeting with an interior designer regarding modifying an existing tv cabinet to make the tv seem not so deep in the 'hole' ... we'll work on that soon ...

The existing cabinet

The new sketch

Last stop Friday afternoon was a friend's house ... Carol had gotten prices from a local kitchen shop for a built in in her laundry room ... She felt the price was maybe a bit high and the owner actually told her she might get a better price from a carpenter... I redrew it this morning and I'll figure up an estimate next week sometime ...

The boys cleaned up while I was gone ... we all went home ...

View from the table leaf house

View of the guest house,pond and main house of the tv cabinet project. These are both local projects so the mountains you see here are the same ones you see in some of my 'nature' photos ...