Saturday, August 19, 2017

a minimalist router table

A reader asked where to find plans for my minimalist router table that has been featured in my books and articles over the years. It can be downloaded from the Fine Woodworking website here:

While many woodworkers work days to make the perfect router table, mine, which has been in use for over 30 years was made in minutes, allowing me to get right to work.

As with many aspects of my work, I'd not set out to make something different. I was simply trying to do something with what I had at hand. Yesterday I met with the elementary school teachers at Clear Spring School to begin planning our woodshop activities with first through sixth grades. Today I will go shopping for walnut.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Friday, August 4, 2017

barbed hinges..

I was asked if there are simple ways to set up to install barbed hinges. The point is not to have a simple means but one that works, and the set up is not all that simple. As a jig for the drill press I made this:
It is made from plywood and with its built in slide, it carries the box smoothly into the cut. Stop blocks must be added to accurately and firmly position the box during milling, and it relies on a shaft and blade from the manufacturer of the hinge, Craft-Inc.

The point is that if you want to use these hinges effectively, you must make some investment in their use. It's not a matter of just buying something that works under all circumstances, and for that reason, these press in place hinges may not be the number one go to hinge for some box makers.

Once the jig is made, a process of fine turning for the right depth is required. The cut away photo at left shows how the hinge must fit the slot. And below you can see the jig mounted to the drill press and with cutter mounted in the chuck.

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A source of supply

A student from one of my summer classes asked where to purchase 1/8 in. Baltic Birch plywood like we used in making boxes. He'd looked online, but found only very small pieces for sale and at high prices. The best option is to purchase Baltic Birch at your local lumber yard. It is available in 5 ft. square sheets, and if not on hand, they'll likely order it for you as they do for me at my local lumber yard.

My first two summer box making classes were full and are now past. I have two more coming up and  there are still openings in each. Beginning July 24 I have a week long class in making Pocket Boxes at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.  August 7-11 I have a class in Creative Box Making at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.

I frequently get questions about my teaching schedule, and these two classes are what remain. Join me if you can.

A woodworking club in Minneapolis asked if I could take a video of myself to help them sell their members on a proposed class in November. Self-produced video is out of my line, but I referred them to a video interview produced by friends, Murdo Laird and Nancy Paddock.

The photo shows drilling a sound hole in the top of a box guitar. I first fitted and glued a circle of walnut into a hole in the cedar top, and then drilled a smaller hole through it, giving the effect of an inlay. The loose piece at the center is scrap. Some sanding of the edges will finish the job.

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, June 23, 2017

book giveaway... Tiny Boxes is offering a free excerpt my new book Tiny Boxes, and you can sign up for a chance of winning a copy by using the link at the end of their blog post.

The brief excerpt describes how to put a lift tab in a pen box. It presents an elegant way to open a box. The same technique is useful for other designs as well.

Good luck! I hope that one of my readers wins.  Two copies of the book will be given away.

Make, fix, and create.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

completing the new shop.

I will be at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts each day this week, continuing to assemble tools and getting the wood shop ready for our first class. The photo shows our new work benches as they are being arranged in the bench room.

As we prepare for the grand opening, I am struck by the enormity of this project, of which the wood shop is only a part. About 15 years ago, other artists and I were discussing the need that we had for an art school. We decided to build one. Not having money or resources, we decided to start as a school without walls, using various private studios in town. The purpose was three fold.
  • Allow the various artists in town to have a means to engage others in the arts.
  • Build the stature of the arts in a community that was already known for the arts.
  • Preserve and protect our community, for artists are the ones who remind us to recognize and protect cultural and aesthetic values.
We proceeded to build a school. At this point we have a 55+ acre campus and studios for pottery, jewelry making, leather work, painting, drawing, iron work, and with this new building have added woodworking.

At this point in my own life, I am in awe of a number of things. And I am mainly reminded that people can gather together and add their strength to each others to accomplish what may turn out to be great things.The long range success of the school is not assured by any means. But our hope is that it gains in credibility, others in the community will realize its value to us, and step up in its support.

I, in the course of things was lucky to recognize a few things. As a newcomer to Eureka Springs, I invited a few members of the local community to gather and create the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople. Through that organization and as first president, I fell into association with a number of wonderful artists. After that organization had met and worked for many years, we closed it specifically to form the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Put the date on your calendar, June 4, 2017. Come join us to celebrate the new wood shop. It will not be complete, as we may be fine tuning it for years.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

design options...

In my books, I express an interest in my reader's creativity by presenting design options. Why should I make all the decisions myself, when my readers had best learn to make decisions on their own?

Also, by having as many as three variations for each box, the reader finds more value in the book, and may be less inclined to just copy cold without adding something of their own soul to the making of it.

A reader contacted me, wondering how to make a finger jointed by with tapered sides like one he had seen in an article that I had written for Fine Woodworking magazine. That box, and the making of it is presented as a design option on p. 51 of Basic Box Making. It is an easy technique.

Make a finger jointed box with thicker than usual sides and then use the table saw or band saw to taper the sides.

Make, fix, and create...

Friday, May 26, 2017

warping lid...

A reader asked about a lovely box he had made of white oak sides and solid zebrawood top. About a week after cutting the lid from the body of the box, the lid warped severely. Here's the story in his own words.
When I retired, in 2015, I wanted to make wooden items. Your box books got me started. By now I have made a dozen and been guided by your hand and refer to the books all the time. If you have the time I would appreciate your advice on a problem I have never had before.

8 days after completing this box the lid started to bow. 8 days!! The first week dead straight. I have tried cauls holding it bent the other way for 5 days, still bowed almost 1/8” in the middle. I can get it straight after using a heat gun, but not while the heat gun is heating it up. It straightens as the wood cools off to room temperature, but after an hour it bows again?! 175F degree oven for a few hours which does the same thing as the heat gun, as it cools, it’s straight, but a few hours later, it’s bowed again?! Sprayed water on the concave side to increase swelling put on the cauls, let it dry overnight, no effect. I have 12 days to correct this problem before presentation to a HS grad, my granddaughter. The lid and box are white oak, and the grain pattern flows around the box, ( so I don’t really want to redo the lid) and that oak was dead flat and straight AND dry when I cut it. It had been in the shop two years. The lid insert is book matched Zebrawood panels 3/8” thick I cut from a bigger piece. I believe it was dry too. But I never put a meter on it. I believe the problem is in the Zwood. It was a very tight fit inserting the Zwood into the rabbeted top of the box, before I ran it through the tablesaw to separate the lid from the box. But why 8 days to show up!?
My questions in response where:
How is the lid panel held in place? Is it a floating tongue and groove panel or is it simply glued in place? If it is glued in place, the answer is easy. To my eye it seems immediately apparent that it’s a tight fit, and that the zebra wood panel has expanded, forcing the lid to bow.

It appears to be a lovely box, but for the problem you (he) had with it. Dealing with expansion and contraction of wood is a challenge. Both expansion and contraction offer challenges. Build without allowing for expansion and the problems do not take long to become apparent.
It turned out that my observation was right. He had glued the panel in place. A painful lesson learned. Wood as it expands and contracts can exert an amazing amount of force. It can push joints apart, or if glued in place, will likely bow. So how can he fix it in time for his granddaughter's graduation?

I have had some luck getting boxes to come apart after removing the metal parts and putting in the microwave. It sounds crazy, but I’ve put just a bit of water in the corners of the joints and heated for as long as 15 seconds at a time.

That can soften the glue (elmers or tightbond) to the point that things can be moved or even pried apart. But the top panel being glued in place will require a lot of steps in the microwave and there is the risk of irreparable damage.

It may just be better to bite the bullet and make a new lid. And the lessons learned, painful as they are, will not be forgotten. The reader suggested that I share this to help others avoid a simple mistake. Allow solid wood panels the opportunity to move. They will.

I learned my own lessons in this regard and what my reader experienced is not uncommon.

Make, and create.