Friday, December 31, 2010

More pics

 A couple more shots of that rod back arm chair.  The color is Conifer Green from the Real Milk Paint Company.  I love the color, and the paint is somewhat easier to use then Old Fashioned, but it is flat, dead flat and can't be rubbed to a sheen like Old Fashioned, but some of the colors are nice, this Conifer is beautiful.  I'll show the process of painting this chair later.

Not what you want

This drawing show what you don't want in a froe ---this is simply a wedge, put it in the piece, and there is no way you can steer the split with this.  You can only split.  The froe on the right was like this, and after working over with a angle grinder, it works ok, better than it did, but not all that great either.  Like I said, try to find an old shingle froe, the one Jeff gave me works great.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Proper froe

 This drawing shows why it is so important to split in equal mass.  I think of it this way---if you have four people pushing you one way, and one person pushing you the other,  you will move in the direction of the one.  Same with trying to split unequal portions,  you have more wood (people) pushing in one direction than the other, and as a result the split will shift across the grain, and split off a small, uneven piece.  Next post I'll show how a brake and froe can help, but really the key is to split equally, it just makes everything easier.
Here's a shot of the good froe on the left.  It is roughly teardrop shaped, rather wide and narrow.  The one on the right is the store bought one, too thick and way too chisel shaped.  I worked it over with a angle grinder, and it helped, but you really can't make a pig sing.  Look for an old one, or try a new one from someone like Barr Tools or Drew Langsner.  They are dearly priced, but at least they are shaped correctly.  I haven't tried either, but if I hadn't gotten the old one, I probably would have.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Here are a couple shots of splitting some sugar (hard ) maple.  I cut some plywood strips 2.5" wide and use them to make the pencil (indelible) marks, then I use the wedge to pre split the log, which means following the pencil marks with a wedge, striking ( tapping really) as I go along.  Then, set the wedge on the mark and wail way.  The hardest part is getting the wedge to stick, once that happens, put another wedge or two along the line, and split.  Usually the maple pops right apart.  Remember to always, always split in halves.  I've tried to cheat before, trying to split a piece into thirds, and almost always I end up with one, instead of two fat halves. 
I used to use a store bought froe that was simply a wedge, parallel sides and a double bevel edge.  It didn't work at all, it simply split the piece, you couldn't steer the split at all.  Then a friend, Jeff Hemphill, gave me a properly shaped froe, which is roughly teardrop shaped, and boy what a difference, night and day.  Now I can place the fatter side down, and push against it, and steer the split should it run to one side, but again, always try to split equal halves. 

Monday, December 27, 2010


 Cool shot of the shadow.

Fairness cont'd

Here's two pics that get to what I was talking about regarding fairness.  These are two arm stumps I turned today for a fan back, and while they look the same, they are not.  But once the chair is done and painted, no one, not even me, could tell.  When I started learning to turn, I drove myself crazy with all these exact measures, got very confusing and frustrating. Now I have some patterns that I use so the measures are the same end to end, but as for the diameter or shape, as long as it looks good, it is good.  This all comes with good basics, and practice, practice, practice.  You learn to trust your eye, and realize that the turnings don't have to be (and shouldn't be) exact copies.  As long as they look fair, they are fair.


Here's the view down the hole drilled thru the hand on a fan back, really nailed this one.  I used to do this on the bench, and it was sort of hit and miss, but now I drill it just like the rest of the holes in the arm rail, in place.  I use a target and line it up and drill, aiming the drill thru hand.  You have to trust yourself (and the technique), and of course you can always adjust it when you ream, but believe me--the truer the hole, the easier the ream.  I use a reamer from Elia Bizzari that works great.
This is the arrangement I use for drilling the hands, and the arm rail for that matter.  The supports idea I got from Drew Langsner's book, and it works great.  I drill, ream and adjust the hand holes to get the correct placement and angle, then I drill the rear center spindle, and once it looks good (there is some wiggle room here) I drill the rest of the holes.  Then I run a spade bit up thru the hole in the arm, and drill the holes in the seat.  This assures perfect placement and a much less nerve-wracking assembly.  Careful with spade bits though, be sure to check the hole size, they tend to be off.  I usually draw file them to undersize them a little, this assures a tight fit.  The drill with the pencil and the target I got from Pete Galbert.  It works really well, check out his blog at Chair Notes.  Mine, for whatever reason, aims right.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

If it looks fair....

Here's a couple pictures of a boat I started this past summer, started being the key word.  I always thought a boat would be fun, but I had no idea how time consuming!  It's a flat bottomed 12' skiff for row and sail.  I have always wanted a small sail boat to mess around with the kids, and by the end of next summer, it may actually sail.  The lines came out spot on, and I definitely learned a bunch about fairing and spilling (measuring planks right off the boat.)  It was a ton of fun, can't wait to get it done. 

One thing I learned, and why I'm mentioning it here, is how much like chair building it is.  There's an old saying in boat building that if it looks fair, it is fair.  Chairs are like that, if it looks good, it is good, regardless of what the tape says.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of careful, very careful measuring and angle drilling and such ( I  call it the accounting part) but with some of the other aspects, you have to trust your eye and hands, and remember, if it looks good, it is good.  I'll get to the chairs soon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Long Time Coming

Here's a Rod Back Arm Chair I built for my father's 70th birthday, a long time coming.  I've been building furniture and chairs for fifteen or so years, but this is the first thing I've ever built for him.  We haven't had the best of relationships, but its never too late.  I know he'll enjoy it, better late than never.  This is my first post, stay with me as I move forward.